It is meant to be enemy territory but a key trio from the Robinhood Stars will feel right at home when Dunedin hosts its second ANZ Premiership game of the season this Saturday.
Stars midcourter Gina Crampton, defender Anna Harrison and shooter Jamie Hume have each spent long stints living in the city and played representative netball for Otago. In addition, Harrison, nee Scarlett, was a member of the former Otago Rebels while both Hume and Crampton are former Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel players.
Crampton admits playing for the opposition in a town she called home for over a decade would feel “weird”, but the Edgar Centre would certainly be familiar.
“I actually thought about that today and wondered how many club games, trainings, Otago, Steel – I would have been there thousands of times I reckon,” she said.
“It will definitely feel familiar but then I have to walk to the other bench so that’s going to be very weird. I hope they don’t boo me when I walk on.”
After nine seasons and two ANZ Premiership titles with the southern franchise, Crampton headed north this season to link with the premiership-leading Stars where she has continued her dominant form as the midcourt commander.
“Obviously being at the top is nice but I think because we’re such a fresh group I’ve been really impressed with how we have gelled quite quickly. And there’s still a lot we can improve on which is an exciting prospect,” she said.
“We started the season really well and then we sort of, not went into a lull, but we weren’t playing as fast and exciting and consistent as we were.
“That can be down to a few things – other teams are finding really good form now or players have started coming back into the fold as well. We’re trying to find that form we had at the start.”
Two losses suffered to date had been a reality check.
“You don’t want to have too many, but I think it was good for us not to just have a smooth road and instead have to really fight for those tough games as well.”
Despite the Stars racking up a 14-goal win last time the two teams met, Crampton was anticipating a tough encounter against an in-form Steel team boasting three wins on the trot.
“The Steel are doing so well … they’re a really exciting team and they are third on the table for a reason. They are playing good netball and we’re expecting a tough battle just like the last time we played them. We’re just going to have to really bring it to them.”
Five new recruits in the 2021 Steel squad added an element of the unknown.
“It doesn’t feel like the team I was in for so long when it is so fresh with new faces. But there’s obviously players like Shannon (Saunders) and Hooch (Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit) who do feel like home to me as well.”
Crampton was keen to show her new team-mates some of her old haunts while in Dunedin.
“Our manager had a really weird café lined up but I convinced her we should go to Starfish obviously for a Starfish stack … I’m sure we will see some sights. I can show them my old flats – there were plenty of them and some really questionable ones.
“I had one that was really scarfie called Moes and you used to have to kick the door to get it open. It wouldn’t move if you just pushed it.”
“I really had the true Dunedin experience.”
Determined to add vital points to its tally as the finals hunt heats up, Steel’s round 10 clash against the Stars kicks off at 5pm on Saturday. Tickets are available from the Edgar Centre or online at www.ticketek.co.nz.