Netball: Special duo of Wilson, Wilkins to boost Steel

Donna Wilkins
Donna Wilkins
The Sting is back. Eight members of the champion 2007 Sting side, including star players Donna Wilkins and Adine Wilson, will be lining up for the Southern Steel in the ANZ Championship next year.

Wilson returns after skipping the inaugural transtasman competition to give birth to her first child, Harper.

And Wilkins, who spent last season on the Steel's bench in the assistant coaching role, will slap on a player's bib again.

The other notable change in the Steel squad, released yesterday, was confirmation Silver Ferns defender Sheryl Scanlan had transferred to the franchise from the Northern Mystics.

Wilkins, who is expecting her first child in December, replaces former Australian international Megan Dehn while former Silver Fern Jessica Tuki makes way for Wilson.

Debbie White has switched with Scanlan and will join the Mystics.

The experienced trio gives the Steel a formidable look and, with the likes of Silver Ferns Katrina Grant and Daneka Wipiiti re-signing, and veteran midcourter Jenny-May Coffin returning, the Steel shapes as a top-four contender.

"Donna was with the Sting for 10 years and was an outstanding player, and Adine was there for many years as well and she is such an asset to any team," Steel coach Robyn Broughton said.

Broughton said the pair brought the sort of skills, professionalism and commitment which would lift any team.

But their combination was something special, she said.

"I think it [their combination] is one of the best that you could ever see. It is something that has been missed in New Zealand netball."

For dual netball and basketball international Wilkins and former Silver Ferns captain Wilson, the decision to return to the court was not taken lightly.

"It was a big decision because it's not just about me," Wilkins said.

"I wouldn't be able to do it without the support of Mike [her husband] and both our mothers - mind you, they didn't take much convincing when it came to looking after their grandchild. I've never retired from the sport and I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing in this new competition."

New mother Wilson was also torn.

"I didn't miss the netball but I missed the girls and Robyn," she said.

"Playing again was something I had to think long and hard about because I am really enjoying being at home with Harper."

Promising shooter Julianna Naoupu completes a strong-looking shooting line-up.

Busy midcourters Jenny-May Coffin, Liana Barrett-Chase and Wendy Telfer will link up with Wilson and Scanlan will add her considerable experience to a defence end which boasts Grant, Erika Burgess and under-rated goal keep Megan Hutton.

Scanlan said a lifestyle change prompted the decision to head south with husband Malcolm and 2-year-old son Jafeth.

"I'm really thrilled to be part of the Steel franchise," she said.

"The support I've had from the northern region has been fantastic and has enabled me to reach the level I have in netball. Now a new era awaits and I'm eager to see what that brings - it's going to be great to be part of a community environment which obviously really embraces netball."

Of the 12 players only Grant, Coffin, Scanlan and Naoupu were not part of the side which won the final National Bank Cup.

Meanwhile, Steel chief executive Julie Paterson said the franchise had received five applications for the assistant coaching role.

Early favourite Natalie Avellino, the former Sting shooter, told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she decided against applying because of work commitments.