You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The first test of the year awaits the Southern Steel this afternoon.
It lines up against the Mainland Tactix in Ashburton today and tomorrow for its first preseason games of 2019.
Just three weeks out from the start of the ANZ Premiership, coach Reinga Bloxham was happy with how the team was tracking.
It had been working hard on strength and conditioning and in the past couple of weeks had begun to work on its court play.
Bloxham said this weekend would be a good marker.
"I think it’s going to be a good test for us.
"In terms of physically are we ready? Definitely.
"I think the good thing for us is once we get into gameplay we can see those areas that might be work-ons for us in the next couple of weeks.
"We’ve still got plenty of time, there’s no need to panic, nobody’s ever won the competition in preseason.
"So we’ll just take it one quarter at a time and try to get the things out of it that we want to."
The Steel has been without internationals Gina Crampton and Lenize Potgieter for the majority of January.Both rejoined the team a week ago and while that was a challenge, it was one which came up every year.
Getting gameplay for Potgieter — who has moved south from the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic — was of importance.
That would enable her to develop connections, which had already improved in a game against the Southern Blast Beko League team on Thursday.
Injury had been something else to navigate.
Both Jennifer O’Connell and Courtney Elliott had been recovering from ankle niggles, although both had court time on Thursday.
Bloxham said neither of the physical problems was unusual for this time of the season, it was just a case of staying on top of them.
Ensuring they, and the rest of the team, remained healthy figured largely in the weekend’s plans.
"My main focus is to come out of it reasonably unscathed," Bloxham said.
"With the niggles we’ve had, we don’t want to take a step backwards.
"So we want to make sure we’re giving people enough court time to build those combinations and connections, but also keeping the wellbeing of our players in mind as well," Bloxham said.
Training partners Georgia Heffernan and Taneisha Fifita would both travel and receive plenty of court time.
Following the weekend’s games the team will head to Otaki on Thursday for the premiership’s preseason tournament.
There it will play three games.
The Southern Blast will also play in Ashburton this weekend, facing the Mainland Beko League team.
ANZ Premiership preseason
EA Networks Arena, Ashburton
Southern Steel v Mainland Tactix
Today 2pm, tomorrow 10am.
Southern Blast v Mainland
Today 4pm, tomorrow noon.