Five new players add to Bloxham’s selection challenges

Reinga Bloxham.
Reinga Bloxham. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The squad has been picked.

Now the question is — how does that translate on to the court?

What will the Southern Steel’s starting line-up look like next year?

There will be plenty of people excited to see that — including the head coach.

Reinga Bloxham is approaching next year’s ANZ Premiership with an open mind, selection-wise.

It is the first year she has had to make major decisions in this way.

Across her first four seasons it was a case of slotting in the odd player, or making the occasional shuffle.

This time five new players have joined the 10-member squad.

There are big questions around certain spots, too.

Notable among those is the make-up of the midcourt with the departure of long-time wing attack Gina Crampton.

Shannon Saunders is an option to slide there, with Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea both capable of playing centre.

Last year’s Beko League player of the year Ali Wilshier could also claim the bib and allow Saunders to stay at centre.

There are options and Bloxham is prepared to give all a chance to work.

"To be honest, I don’t know how it’s going to play out," she said.

"I think that’s the bit I’m excited about because all bibs are up for grabs, basically.

"If you want it you’re going to have to earn it.

"The most important thing in all of that is being able to see what the connections looks like out on court.

"We’ve got some different combinations we can try, so [it’s a matter of] just seeing what will work best.

"That creates some excitement for me."

Savai’inaea and Wilshier are among the newcomers to the side. Bloxham described them as "nuggety" and hard-working.

Meanwhile the new shooting duo of George Fisher and Tiana Metuarau would be solid together, she said.

Both brought decent levels of experience, despite being just 21 and 19 respectively, and were steady shooters.

They were key pick-ups, given serious knee injuries to Jennifer O’Connell and Georgia Heffernan left the side down two shooters from this year.

Circle defender Sarahpheinna Woulf had experience in Australia and brought ability to track players, as well as being strong in hunting the ball.

Bloxham said integrating those players was "an exciting challenge to have".

The squad would gather in late January or early February for its pre-season.

However, Bloxham said there would be plenty of planning she had to do and off-season fitness work for the players to do before then.

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