Piebenga pleased to have 'selection headaches'

Lauren Piebenga
Lauren Piebenga
The Southern Blast has named its squad for 2019 before its first preseason games this weekend.

A squad of 12 was selected for the newly renamed Beko League side, which acts as a feeder team to the Southern Steel.

It is headlined by Waitaki Girls' High School year 13 pupil Taneisha Fifita, who made her ANZ Premiership debut for the Southern Steel last year.

She is joined in the defensive circle by Laura Overton, Annabel Angland and Renaye Flockton.

The shooting line-up boasts two more with Steel experience.

Both Georgia Heffernan and Jess Allan played in last year's Super Club competition, while Heffernan also played in the preseason.

Hannah Riddle-Pelchen, from Waikato, joins them alongside Southland Girls' High School's 2018 captain Holly Munro.

In the midcourt, Killarney Morley claims a spot, having impressed since moving south from Auckland.

Lauren Pickett, Zoey Flockton and Julia Law make up the remainder of the line-up.

Four of last year's squad - Kiana Pelasio, Sarah Boomer, Meg Sycamore and Tarryn Dickson - have been named as training partners.

Coach Lauren Piebenga, returning to the role after spending the past two years as the Steel's assistant coach, said there were some tough decisions.

''As a coach, it's good to have a few selection headaches as it means everyone is putting their hand up strongly,'' she said.

''It was a pretty robust trial - physically tough - and certainly gave our selectors plenty to talk about.

''We've got a great mix of experience and newbies and we were impressed with how the players were already starting to gel and connect.''

She said a key focus would be to prepare the players to be competitive at the elite level.

''I want them to get a taste of what high performance netball looks and feels like.

''We'll give them the opportunity to work alongside the Steel players, where possible, so they can understand the environment and expectation and are also able to transition into the franchise space if the opportunity presents itself.

''The Beko league is amateur, so players need to be driven to develop their game and commit to the pathway we put in front of them.''

In recent years the Steel has made full use of the team to bolster its ranks, particularly when injury has struck.

Notably, Kate Heffernan was called in full-time mid-season and went on to receive a contract this year, as did Kendall McMinn.

The side has preseason games against Mainland on both days this weekend in Ashburton.

The Steel will also play the Mainland Tactix beforehand on each day.

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