Glad not to be in enemy territory

Southern Steel wing defence Renee Savai'inaea relaxes after training at the High Performance...
Southern Steel wing defence Renee Savai'inaea relaxes after training at the High Performance Sport New Zealand gym yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Renee Savai’inaea knows what it will be like for her opponent tomorrow.

The wing defence has plenty of experience playing in front of an Invercargill crowd wearing yellow and black.

This time when the Central Pulse travels down, she will be thankful to be in a Southern Steel dress.

The 20-year-old moved south this year and has made an immediate impression, slotting into the Steel starting midcourt.

She got her first taste of a Stadium Southland crowd two weeks ago and she was looking forward to getting in front of it again.

"They’re awesome. Love it," she said.

"If you make a mistake they’re still cheering for you.

"Me and [Tiana Metuarau] were just talking about how it’s so intimidating coming here and we realised being on the home side how good they are for you.

"It makes you realise why it’s so hard to win against the Steel in their home, because they’re like the eighth player on the court."

Savai’inaea debuted for the Pulse in 2017 while still at school.

Having been tall through her school years, she had been a circle defender her whole life.

However, upon reaching the ANZ Premiership, she found she was short for a circle defender at that level.

So with the support of her coaches and family, she decided to reinvent herself as a midcourter.

She went back to the Beko League and learnt to play as a wing defence and centre.

Changing their game to fit at a higher level is a path many athletes take.

It is one few succeed at.

However, when Savai’inaea re-emerged last year, she had become a fully-fledged midcourter.

It was a position she was enjoying.

This year has brought more change, having moved away from her family in Wellington for the first time.

Alongside playing for the Steel, she was also studying for a social work degree at the University of Otago while living in Dunedin.

The opportunity to play more — she had been among a loaded Pulse midcourt — had made moving an attractive option.

"I think the Steel just has a really good culture and a good system with trainings.

"For me, moving down here it was just to get more opportunities to get on court and just a new perspective on things.

"I’ve been in Wellington my whole life. Just having different coaching and different players to learn off."

She was glad to have made the move and was learning plenty.

The Steel is coming off a loss to the Northern Mystics a week ago, although won at home two weeks ago against the Mainland Tactix.

Meanwhile, the Pulse beat the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic last week.

Aliyah Dunn has been a key presence in the shooting circle in the absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

It has a strong midcourt trio in Maddy Gordon, Whitney Souness and captain Claire Kersten.

Centre pass is at 4pm.

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