‘Fresh and exciting’ Steel squad named for next year’s season

The squad has a new look.

The situation, though, brings a strange familiarity.

Southern Steel chief executive Lana Winders admits to feeling similar to the last time the team brought in a host of new players.

It unveiled its squad for next season on Wednesday, five new faces featuring in a team that now has a very different look to recent years.

That past era had begun when then-head coach Janine Southby brought in a core of youngsters such as Gina Crampton, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Storm Purvis.

They went on to be key players as the side went through a dominant period which netted two ANZ Premiership titles.

It was hoping this new intake would bring similar success.

"I was just thinking about that yesterday, it feels like that again," Winders said.

"We were in rebuild mode last year, a couple of injuries have kind of sent us back to the start of rebuild.

"But a successful recruitment process has enabled us to attract some youth, but some great elite and international netball experience."

Shannon Saunders and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit will lead the team, their experience set to be key in carrying on its culture and standards.

Gina Crampton is gone after nine seasons, the wing attack moving to the Northern Stars, leaving what Winders dubbed "huge shoes to fill".

Abby Erwood and Kendall Corkery are also gone, both being passed on for other options.

They would have the option of joining the Southern Blast Beko League team and Winders said there was potential for both to reclaim contracts in the future.

Winders said there were several factors in those decisions.

Part of it was a shift in focus to the wing attack-centre positions with Crampton’s departure.

Other impressive players had also approached the team, and while the Steel liked to invest in local talent, Winders said the priority was still putting together the best team possible.

Among those new players she felt there was plenty of talent.

George Fisher was a notable signing, the 21-year-old shooter having played 12 tests for England.

Winders said once the team connected with her, it was an easy process as both realised they had a lot to offer the other.

The opportunity to test herself against New Zealand defenders had been a big attraction.

Tiana Metuarau was another great signing in the shooting circle, joining Kiana Pelasio in filling out a lineup without injured duo Jennifer O’Connell and Georgia Heffernan.

Renee Savai’inaea and Ali Wilshier both join Saunders and Kate Heffernan in the midcourt, while Sarahpheinna Woulf comes into the defensive circle with Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita.

Despite that youth, Winders was not setting low expectations for this side.

"I hope this team goes all the way.

"I want to see a grand final in Invercargill again, we’ve got all the talent we need to make that happen.

"I think the Steel are looking very fresh and very exciting.

"It’s just palpable to see excitement and anticipation in the Steel office from our coaching and management team about this roster."


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