Steel to play Lightning in two matches in South

Reinga Bloxham.
Reinga Bloxham
The best of New Zealand is set to take on the best of Australia — and it is happening in the South.

The Southern Steel, which won the inaugural ANZ premiership for New Zealand teams  earlier this year, is set to take on  Sunshine Coast Lightning, the winner of the Australian domestic competition.

The sides will play two matches — the first at the Edgar Centre on March 15 next year, a Thursday night.

The teams will then do battle the following night in Invercargill.

Many have questioned why this game was not played at the end of both teams’ domestic competitions in the middle of the year, when both teams  won their respective competitions.

But timing issues and national commitments got in the way.But the teams  met earlier in the year in a pre-season match and will renew that pre-season meeting in March next year.

Sunshine Coast Lightning is coached by Noeline Taurua, who coached the Steel in 2016.

Steel coach Reinga Bloxham was thrilled to have the pre-season fixture arranged.

"It’s massive for us. It’s going to provide us with some vital high-intensity international game play with a quality side," she said.

"We’ll both have our full quota of respective Silver Ferns and Australian Diamonds players, so it will be fantastic for our community to see some really high-performing netball and superstars of the sport in action on our home turf."

The Steel has lost shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and defender Jane Watson from the title-winning side but still has the likes of Gina Crampton, Shannon Francois and Te Paea Selby-Rickit in its side.

The Lightning has lost star midcourter Laura Langman from this year’s title-winning team. Langman has shifted back to New Zealand and is sitting next year out.

But the Queensland team will still have a good side to pick from with defender Geva Mentor, shooter Caitlin Basset and midcourter Karla Mostert, expected to line up.

Bloxham said the Lightning encounters would form a vital part of the team’s preparation for its ANZ Premiership title defence.

"When we first met in February, it was all a bit of an unknown as we both prepared for completely new competitions here and in Australia. But it couldn’t have worked out better for either of us as now it’s the two champion teams set to battle it out — so it will be exciting to see what emerges."

Taurua was excited to return to the deep south where she had a stint coaching the Steel to win the ANZ Championship minor premiership in 2016.

"I am so excited to come back. I thoroughly enjoyed by time there and for me, it’s like a homecoming," she said.

"A lot of great things have happened over the past year with both teams successful in winning our respective competitions, so this is a fantastic opportunity to share those learnings and to compete against each other."

Tickets can be bought when buying Steel season membership, which goes on sale tomorrow. General sales to the games will go on sale in February.

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