New era as Steel players hit ground running

Reinga Bloxham.
Reinga Bloxham.
A line has been drawn through last year's triumphant season and it is full steam ahead for the Steel.

The ANZ Premiership winner from last year officially began training in Invercargill yesterday as it gets ready for the new season.

With the Commonwealth Games in April, the ANZ Championship is set to start later this season with the Steel's first game set for May 6.

Steel coach Reinga Bloxham said the side hit the ground running yesterday and she was keen for players to get back into it.

''We have not had a lot of time together so it will be good to have all the girls in the one place and train together.''

Silver Ferns Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Shannon Francois will have a mandatory stand-down period of about a week after returning from the Silver Ferns tour before joining the team.

With key players Jane Watson and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid departed from the title-winning side of last year, Bloxham said it was a new era.

''I think the thing is you take it as it comes.

'' It is a fresh start and definitely feels like a new team ... we are really looking forward to working with this group of girls.

''We all know the history of this team but what is really important for this team is to set their own goals, have their own expectations - to not lean on the shoulders of last year's team.''

Much of the initial work will revolve around strength and conditioning although many of the players had not had a netball in their hands for a while so there would also be work done on skill development and game structure.

She said no players were carrying any injuries, although there were bound to be a few strains as the training intensity increased.

With the Silver Ferns preparing for the Commonwealth Games, she said the pre-season was likely to be disruptive as players came in and out of camp.

The Silver Ferns were looking to play games against sides around the country before the Games, so the Steel may play them in a match-up.

Other pre-season games include two matches against the Sunshine Coast Lightning, in Invercargill and Dunedin, and there will also be a tournament in Otago which will involve all the other ANZ Championship teams.

Training partners Kate and Georgia Heffernan and Taneisha Fifita will play a full part in pre-season.

Bloxham said the trio should fit in well and be ready to play should someone go down with an injury.

Pre-season training will be split between Dunedin and Invercargill although that depended on availability of facilities.

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