Netball: Chance for Steel to test game plan

Janine Southby
Janine Southby
The Southern Steel is one of three New Zealand teams playing in this weekend's transtasman challenge tournament in Melbourne.

It is an opportunity for teams to test themselves before the ANZ Championship starts late next month.

''We are pretty excited about the opportunity. The girls are looking forward to it,'' Steel coach Janine Southby said.

''It's a great opportunity for us to get a really good gauge of where we are at.

''We've been training for the last five weeks so this is a timely opportunity to see if our game plan is going to work.

''It will also give our combinations a chance to get established and for some of the younger girls to get an opportunity to play against the Australians and to be umpired by Australian umpires.''

It will be the first opportunity for the Southern Steel's import, Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler, to get a feel for the transtasman competition.

One of the big problems faced by New Zealand teams in the ANZ championship is getting used to the different interpretations taken by the Australian umpires.

''To be honest, I don't think any of us have cracked it yet,'' Southby said.

The Steel is taking its complete squad of 14 players for the six games it will play in Melbourne. The Steel normally takes a squad of 11 players when it travels across the Tasman.

''The board agreed to let the team take all 14 members of the squad across to Melbourne,'' Southby said.

''There are three younger players in the group that haven't played at this level. It gives us the opportunity to expose them to that level of netball so they can experience what is required.''

The teams taking part are the Queensland Firebirds, Adelaide Thunderbirds, West Coast Fever, New South Wales Swifts, Southern Steel, Canterbury Tactix, Northern Mystics and the Vixens.

The Southern Steel's six games at the weekend will be against the five Australian franchises and the Mystics.

The board recognised the importance of the pre-season tournament for the development of the Southern Steel.

''There are only three New Zealand franchises going across,'' Southby said.

''It certainly isn't a cheap exercise.

''Its a great opportunity to expose our girls to the whole exercise and get used to the transtasman travel of flying in and flying out for a game.''

The Victorian Government has funded the tournament with a $A30,000 ($NZ40,000) grant.