O’Connell returns to Steel ranks for 2024
Experienced shooter Jennifer O’Connell will return to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel for the 2024 ANZ Premiership season.
The 1.93m shooter was a key member of the franchise from 2017 to 2020, winning two premiership titles in 2017 and 2018.
Steel chief executive Sonya Fleming confirmed O’Connell had been recruited to bolster the shooting ranks as George Fisher continues her recovery from a serious knee injury sustained nearly a year ago.
“Jen has joined the team as injury cover as George continues to focus on her recovery,” she said.
“George has worked incredibly hard and made excellent progress but the reality is her recovery isn’t quite where we would like it to be at this stage of the preseason. We are supporting her unreservedly and simply aren’t prepared to rush this process.
“It’s fantastic we have a player the calibre of Jen in our community who can step into the team with a relatively smooth transition.”
Currently at home in the UK, Fisher will rejoin her team-mates in early February determined to return to the court.
"One of the hardest parts of any injury is the unknown. Sure, you know how you expect, and want, your recovery to go but there really are no guarantees. While it's been making strong progress, my knee isn't quite where I was hoping it would be by this stage of the preseason. All I can do is continue to work incredibly hard on my rehab alongside the medical team, accepting that this is a process you can't rush. It has to be done right," she said.
“I’m super grateful for the support of my Steel family. They have been with me every step of the way, and they’re still on this journey with me. I can’t wait to get back on court with the girls and really test out my new knee when the time is right.”
O’Connell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury herself in 2020, aimed to embrace the unexpected opportunity to return to the sport’s top echelon.
“Obviously, it’s tough for George and I really empathise with her and the rehab process,” she said.
“But I am incredibly honoured to get this opportunity to pull on the pink and blue Steel kit again – it’s really special given it’s a chapter in my career I thought was finished.
“It was definitely unexpected. I’m pretty sure I laughed at Curly (head coach Reinga Bloxham) down the phone when she rang but I am grateful for the chance to be back in the environment.
“I’m focusing on just taking it day by day. I haven’t played netball or been in the high performance space for a long time and I know things have changed but I will be giving it my all for the team and our fans.”