Four Steel players to turn out for Southern Blast

The Southern Blast will have several experienced campaigners on hand to open its Beko League season today.

Four of the Southern Steel side which routed the Mainland Tactix will turn out for the Blast against the Northern Marvels in Auckland.

That experience will be key as it enters the competition it last won in 2016.

Shooter Georgia Heffernan and defender Taneisha Fifita were both training partners with the Steel. Both impressed on Tuesday night and give the Blast key weapons at each end of the court.

Midcourter Kendall McMinn slots back in, eligible due to having played fewer than 36 quarters in her ANZ Premiership career.

Goal shoot Jennifer O'Connell has a dispensation as she continues her return from an ankle niggle.

Among the rest of the squad is a mix of experience and youth.

Coach Lauren Piebenga said the team was excited, although a little nervous.

It had been together for five weeks and was still developing its connections.

However, having several players coming back from a higher level was a strength.

Having coached the title-winning team in 2016, Piebenga has spent the past two seasons as the Steel's assistant coach.

This year she has returned to coach the Beko League side, while also returning to her full-time job at Columba College.

It "wasn't in the original plan" to continue with the Steel.

However, she has carried on with the side as a specialist coach. helping to look after the Dunedin-based players and getting to the games she is able to.

Having a foot in both camps will no doubt help, as her goal for the Blast is very much developmental.

"I think the definite focus for us as a zone is to have players ready to transition into our Steel environment," she said.

"That's the ultimate for us, physically and mentally preparing players to represent the franchise."

She enjoyed coaching with that focus and the type of players in that environment.

"I love the energy and the excitement within this level.

"I think a lot of them are still a little bit green and are really looking for direction and feedback.

"I really enjoy working with that development level."

The Beko League is a short season this year and each team will play a round and a-half.

The final will be on May 19.

Southern Blast
Squad for 2019: Jess Allan, Annabel Angland, Sarah Boomer, Tarryn Dickson, Taneisha Fifita, Renaye Flockton, Zoey Flockton, Georgia Heffernan, Julia Law, Killarney Morley, Holly Munro, Laura Overton, Kiana Pelasio, Lauren Pickett, Hannah Riddle-Pelchen, Meg Sycamore.

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