2020 Season Preview: Southern Steel
The signing of talented Trinidad & Tobago’s Kalifa McCollin headlines a new-look shooting end for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s 2020 ANZ Premiership campaign.
Youngsters Georgia Heffernan (shooter) and Taneisha Fifita (defender) join McCollin as the Steel’s trio of newcomers for the upcoming season, the pair previously being involved as training partners.
Retaining the core of their squad, the biggest change for the Steel is at the shooting end where incumbent Jennifer O’Connell, Heffernan and McCollin will join forces for the first time. Heffernan will unite with her identical twin sister, midcourter Kate, in the southern line-up.
“Jen (O’Connell) has established herself in our side over the last couple of years and although she didn’t get much court time last season, she’s chomping at the bit to be back out on the court and showing what she can do,” Steel coach Reinga Bloxham said.
“The addition of Kalifa will add experience and international flair. We saw a little bit of what she can do at Super Club and there’s more to come from her.”
Featuring at two World Cups for Trinidad & Tobago, McCollin has been an impressive performer in the UK’s Super League for the past three years, the vibrant, quick-moving and athletic goal attack earning a place in the competition’s All Stars team for her exploits in 2019.
Having played three games for the Steel in 2019 and catching the eye with her in-circle defensive qualities, Fifita now gets the opportunity to showcase her skills on a permanent basis. Fifita’s whole family will relocate from Oamaru to Invercargill to support the teen as she takes the leap into semi-professional sport in her first year out of school.
The Steel are looking to make some tweaks to their style of play for 2020 but their hallmark feature will set the tone.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is keeping possession of the ball,” Bloxham said.
“At times it’s not the prettiest netball but it does get us across the line. Our default is to always make sure that we’re looking after the ball but we also want to be able to play with speed and agility.
“We’ve got really quick midcourters in Gina (Crampton) and Shannon (Saunders) who can move quickly and release the ball quickly, so being able to release long, quick ball into Jen would be fantastic.
“We’ve always been quite dogged on defence but one of the things we want to do better this year is get more gains in that area.”
Bloxham expects standards to lift further in 2020, the fourth edition of the competition, and that should be helped by the new structure of the draw with games being played on Sundays and Mondays only.
“I know that the players are really happy about it and in terms of planning out the season, it’s quite nice to only have to worry about one game per week.
“It will be really good for the bodies and also means that each week you can bring all the intensity that you want to because you should be fresh out of the blocks each week.”
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 2020:
Gina Crampton, Abby Erwood, Taneisha Fifita, Georgia Heffernan, Kate Heffernan, Kalifa McCollin, Kendall McMinn, Jennifer O’Connell, Shannon Saunders, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.