Saunders proud to reach 100

Shannon Saunders on court during her 100th match for the Steel against the Tactix in 
Shannon Saunders on court during her 100th match for the Steel against the Tactix in Christchurch on Tuesday night. Photo: Michael Bradley
It is a rarity for an unfamiliar name to bring up 100 matches for one franchise.

Shannon Saunders did just that though.

The Southern Steel centre became just the second centurion for the team in Tuesday's win over the Mainland Tactix.

The name may be new, but the face is familiar.

As she prepares to play the Northern Mystics in Auckland today, Shannon Saunders reassured fans she plans to be just as good as Shannon Francois was.

"Hopefully. I just plan on changing my name, nothing else about me as a player," she laughed.

"So hopefully, I can be good."

The name change came after marrying her partner of 12 years, Marcus, in January.

After meeting at high school, Shannon moved to Dunedin from Motueka for university.

Marcus - now a police dog handler - remained at home, but made the move himself after it was clear Shannon would remain in the South.

She debuted for the Steel in 2012, marking Laura Langman in an upset win over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in the Invercargill velodrome.

Not much - aside from her name - has changed since then.

Playing 100 games had been "really cool", although something she had not realised was coming around.

"It's gone really quickly.

"I feel like I'm still 18 and just starting out.

"It was very exciting and quite a proud moment really, to play 100 games for the Steel.

"To do it for one franchise has been awesome."

Shannon Francois passes the ball for the Southern Steel against the Mainland Tactix as Jade...
Shannon Francois passes the ball for the Southern Steel against the Mainland Tactix as Jade Clarke and Anna Thompson watch on during a match at the Edgar Centre in 2013. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Sticking with the Steel had not been a tough decision.

Having established herself as one of the country's top midcourters for much of her career, Saunders would surely be welcomed anywhere.

But being part of a core group the franchise invested in as youngsters was now reaping its rewards.

"I've always really enjoyed my time and I'm very grateful the Steel provided me the opportunity to play netball at this level.

"So I definitely feel a loyalty towards them and it's definitely an honour to play for them for this long."

The championships over the past two seasons had been highlights, as had been the people she got to play and work with.

She hoped to add a third title to that haul this year.

After a slow start the side had been happy to see it could still play good netball in a rout of the Tactix on Tuesday.

It plays its third game in six days to open the season today, facing a Mystics team which was dispatched by the Central Pulse on opening day.

For Saunders, though, her main goal is to enjoy her netball and play consistently.

Getting back into the Silver Ferns squad - from which she was dropped at the end of last year - was not a major focus, although she would see what happened.

Steel v Mystics
Steel: Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders, Kate Heffernan, Kendall McMinn, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Courtney Elliott, Abby Erwood, Taneisha Fifita, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Lenize Potgieter, Jennifer O’Connell, Georgia Heffernan.
Mystics: Elisapeta Toeava, Emma Iversen, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Jamie Hume, Bailey Mes, Phoenix Karaka, Erena Mikaere, Grace Kukutai, Kristina Brice, Tayla Earle, Grace Nweke, Nanise Waqaira.

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