Injured shooter keeping busy

George Fisher is biding her time before she can get back on court. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
George Fisher is biding her time before she can get back on court. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Southern Steel have sorely missed George Fisher since the star import succumbed to injury. She talks to netball writer Kayla Hodge about how she is keeping her netball brain active.

George Fisher never really saw herself going into coaching.

But after nearly two years on the sidelines and the tough cards she has been dealt in terms of injury, the Southern Steel shooter is finding her feet.

Fisher, who injured her knee in a preseason game last year, has returned to the Steel this year, and while she might not be having an impact physically on the court, she is doing all she can off it to help her team through.

The 25-year-old has taken up a role as an apprentice assistant coach, supporting head coach Reinga Bloxham and assistant Jo Morrison, taking care of game-day statistics, and helping the shooters during training.

She also spent time coaching among the southern netball community and giving back — something Fisher has done a lot in the past 18 months.

The English Rose has started her own coaching business, Out the Box Sports, with her fiance, Southland Sharks basketballer Brayden Inger, which has turned out to be a hidden passion.

"I used to hate coaching," Fisher laughed.

She has also started her own netball academy back home in the United Kingdom — the first intake starts in September — and is enjoying a chance to give something back.

"I’m actually really, really enjoying it.

"I love learning. It’s real cool when you teach girls, and you are giving them back what you’ve been taught.

"All the knowledge I have I can give to someone else and I love watching their game change and grow."

That knowledge was also being passed on to Georgia Heffernan and Grace Namana, who have stepped up as the Steel’s shooters this year.

Fisher, who has played 22 games for the Roses, was proud to see how far their combination had come, and she felt Heffernan was having a breakout season.

"Georgia is having an absolutely outstanding season.

"The way she’s just sort of stepped up back there ... she’s really picked up the load. She’s taken that leadership down there, she’s running the attack, which is awesome to see, and shooting amazing."

Namana was the "biggest workhorse I’ve ever met", and Fisher loved being able to bounce ideas off both players and support them through the season.

But that does not mean it has not been tough on the sidelines.

Fisher has become increasingly frustrated as she battles her way back from a complex knee injury.

She had surgery after tearing her ACL last February, but when she returned to the UK she required further surgery after her cartilage had died and was floating around her knee.

"That was kind of a big step back and kind of put me back a good couple of months and we were still at the stage where we could aim for the season," Fisher said.

But then she had further issues — including having her knee drained three times and injected up to three times with pain relief — and her dream of returning this season slowly faded away.

"We’re slowly, slowly getting there — she’s temperamental."

She had been running at 80% bodyweight on an AlterG machine and would love to be fit enough to do a conditioning session with the Steel by the end of the season.

But it was the small steps on the way there — like running on land and then changing direction — that she needed to master before she could think about getting on to the court.

"When I get back, I just hope I can play again, I guess.

"It’s obviously a goal, but right now it’s the small stuff before I can think about the big stuff.

"I don’t like to set goals because I’ll be, like, ‘sweet, I’m back for next season’ and then ‘oh’."

While many players would have opted to stay at home on the other side of the world, Fisher was always keen to return to Invercargill.

"It’s super weird. I genuinely came for five months and I’ve been here for, like, four years."

She enjoyed the family-oriented environment the Steel created, and said the way they cared for their players was a game-changer.

"I’m out for two years and I’m still kicking around, still on the bench, still involved.

"That’s huge for a player to still be involved in that sort of stuff.

"You come down and you tend to stay down. There’s something about it — it’s real hard to put your finger on and explain."

Watching the Steel lose 21 games straight had been tough, but they had been faced with myriad injuries.

Fisher was proud to see Kate Heffernan’s growth as captain — "what an awesome leader" — and the work the Steel were doing behind the scenes.

"Even though we’ve lost a fair few games this season, we’re competing ... we’re putting out good performances.

"We’ve been pipped at the post a few times, but so proud of the girls and the work we’re putting in."

The Steel play the Northern Stars in Auckland this afternoon.

Stars midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan will miss the rest of the season after scans confirmed she suffered an ACL rupture and medial meniscus tear in her left knee during Monday’s game against the Magic.

ANZ Premiership

Auckland, 7pm

Southern Steel: Grace Namana, Georgia Heffernan, Summer Temu, Kate Heffernan, Serina Daunakamakama, Charlotte Lourey, Renee Savai’inaea, Jeante Strydom, Abby Lawson, Taneisha Fifita.

Northern Stars: Maia Wilson, Amorangi Malesala, Rahni Samason, Lisa Mather, Kate Burley, Holly Fowler, Khanye-Lii Munro-Nonoa, Lili Tokaduadua, Emma Thompson.