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Steel to face Lightning in pre-season friendlies

Steel to face Lightning in pre-season friendlies

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel will jet off to Australia today ahead of two practice matches against the Noeline Taurua-coached Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The friendlies will be played at the University of Sunshine Coast Sports Stadium on Friday 10 February and Sunday 12 February.

Minus their Silver Ferns quartet – Shannon Francois, Gina Crampton, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Jane Watson – coach Reinga Bloxham has opted to bolster the ranks with training partner Ngawai Eyles and Netball South development squad members Sophie Erwood, Aliyah Dunn and Dani Gray.

Bloxham is eager to add tough match play into the mix as the team prepares for the inaugural ANZ Premiership season.

“Our main objective is to obviously get on the court and run some combinations against a quality side in a different training environment. We won’t have our Silver Ferns but it gives the others a chance to get out on court and experience that next level of high performance Netball. It’s a wonderful chance for them to show us what they’ve got,” Bloxham said.

In the ANZ Premiership, teams contract just 10 players for the season so the trip will prove valuable exposure for the Steel’s fringe players.

“With this new competition structure, we have training partners who at any moment could be called into the squad if there’s a niggle or an injury so it’s important to know we have some depth in our stocks.”

Towering 1.98m Jamaican sharpshooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid arrived in Invercargill on Saturday and will make her first appearance with the team for 2017.

“It’s fantastic to welcome Jhaniele back to her Steel family. It will be nice for her to just be amongst us again and get back on the court after the off-season. It might be a bit of a baptism of fire but at least she won’t have to acclimatise too much initially on the Sunshine Coast compared to Invercargill,” Bloxham said.

The Steel will open their ANZ Premiership campaign against the Northern Stars at Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, on March 26 – the first of three Super Sundays featuring all six teams in action at the same venue.