Saunders injury big blow for Steel

Shannon Saunders at a recent game against the Stars in Invercargill. The 33-year-old's season is...
Shannon Saunders at a recent game against the Stars in Invercargill. The 33-year-old's season is over due to a knee injury. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY
Southern Steel midcourter Shannon Saunders has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Saunders, 33, has been managing a knee injury she suffered during preseason, but recent tests revealed a tear in cartilage that will now sideline her for the rest of the ANZ Premiership.

It is a massive blow to the Steel, already without shooter George Fisher for the season through a knee injury also. 

“It's definitely taken a while for the news to sink in,’’ Saunders said today. 

‘‘Especially because it's been quite a strange injury in terms of its presentation, and I wasn't expecting my latest scan results to give the diagnosis that it has.

"On the flip side, it's nice to now have some answers and more of a direction in terms of rehab and steps forward.”

Saunders, the most capped player in the ANZ Premiership, returned to the court this season after welcoming her first child last year.

“I'm extremely gutted. I was having so much fun being back out there on court," she said. 

"It has been awesome seeing the improvement from the team each week and I'm devastated I won't be able to help contribute to that out on court now.

“I have absolutely loved my time back with Steel. Even just being in the team environment has been awesome.

‘‘I love the pressure and the competitiveness that comes with playing and the challenge to be better, learn and adapt each week.

“The team has been improving each week and I'm excited to see them continue to grow and watch all the different combinations develop.”

Saunders backed young Ivari Christie, whom she has been supporting at wing attack, to step up.

And she planned to continue mentoring the Steel. 

“I will stay connected with the team as much as I can and hopefully still be able to make it down for some of the home games.

‘‘That's the really hard part about being based away from the team - not being there every day - but we have so many different ways to participate in meetings or trainings via online and I'm able to stay linked that way.”

Steel chief executive Sonya Fleming said Saunders had the team’s unwavering support.

“Shannon’s vast experience is not something you can simply replace and she is a massive loss for us from a leadership perspective.

"Our priority continues to be supporting Shannon in her rehabilitation."

The Steel are now on the hunt for a replacement player ahead of their game against the Mainland Tactix in Rangiora on Sunday.