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The freedom to add her own individuality into the mix has seen an evolution in Kate Burley’s netball prowess this season.
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defender will be the first to tell you it’s a work in progress but her performances on court speak volumes about the impact of her move south from Auckland.
“It’s been really cool learning the structures at Steel but also to know I can go out of those structures if I see ball. It’s about having confidence in myself to just go and find something and attack ball,” she said.
“I feel like last year I was so caught up in a structure and so caught up trying to do the right thing that I almost wasn’t getting ball. So it’s been really cool to play freely and try and attack stuff. I do love to hunt.
“I’m relatively happy. I really want to step up in the last few games and just make sure I’m getting some good ball and working hard, especially focusing on my attacking game and making sure I’m contributing through court and driving hard.”
Providing head coach Reinga Bloxham with all-important options, Burley, 25, forms a formidable combination with seasoned campaigner Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, affectionately dubbed ‘Hoochie’ by her teammates, and Sarahpheinna Woulf.
“As a D unit we’re still building and that’s really exciting. Hopefully that momentum continues over these last few games when it really matters,” Burley said.
“Hooch is amazing. She tells me what to do and always gets her body in the perfect place and I’ve just got to run my feet and try and get something. She’s so awesome to work with and I love learning off her. She knows so much about netball so I’m just trying to pick her brain whenever I can.
“We all have different strengths. Fina and Hooch are just so strong under the post. Fina is really good at coming through for the ball and she’s got quick feet, and Hoochie’s so good at being in the perfect space and having the claw out to just pull those balls in.
“I try and use more of my speed. I think we all complement each other and we all play different games depending on which combination is out there. It’s really cool that we can change it up and have different styles of defence.
“We’re not the tallest trio but it just means that we play a different game and I think it works to our advantage. We play with a lot of speed and when we execute that speed it’s really awesome.”
With elevation a trademark of her play, Burley has earned a reputation for bringing the ‘hops’.
“I try to. It is one of my strengths using my jump, I just need to focus on making sure I’m using it effectively to get ball.”
In a bizarre coincidence, the Steel boasted three Kate’s in its starting seven against the Splice Construction Magic in Rotorua on Wednesday – Burley at goal defence, Kate Hartley at wing defence and Kate Heffernan at centre.
“I don’t think that has ever happened before. We were telling Hooch all she needed to say was ‘Kate go for ball’ and hopefully we’d all do something,” Burley quipped.
The Steel’s latest 51-49 victory was an important one as the quest for an ANZ Premiership final berth heats up.
“It was good to grind it out and get that win. It was really awesome to see that we could finish out that game and step up in that last quarter when we were down on the scoreboard. In the last couple of games, that’s continued downwards and we’ve let other teams get the best of us so it was cool that we could step up and get some ball and convert it.”
The southerners now face a double header against the Te Wānanga o Ruakawa Pulse and Magic at ILT Stadium Southland this weekend and Burley was determined to make it a success.
“It’s just a consistency thing. Against the Magic it was a really tight game and we were able to embrace that pressure and push forward so we will be looking to do that. It’s going to be two tough games,” she said.
“The Magic will be coming back at us and we have a point to prove against the Pulse so we need to make sure we have a full 60 minute performance against them.
“I think it will be a really good challenge for us and it will be interesting to see how we step up to that.”
Tackling four games in just eight days was a tough schedule.
“We’re only halfway but it’s going alright. We are just making sure we are doing our recovery well, getting in good food and good sleep. Hopefully it just happens out on court and we get to play the game that we love,” Burley said.
“These games will be the big test because they’re back-to-back so we just have to front up and make sure we stick to our game plan.”
With Bloxham apt at using all players in her arsenal, combinations intertwined seamlessly.
“That is one of our strengths. When we do use those interchanges, it brings on a different type of player, a different energy, a different vibe. It’s been a really good change up and everyone that comes on does their job and makes a really good impact.”
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