The completion of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel squad to contest the 2022 ANZ Premiership features a resilient midcourt and a remarkable comeback tale.
Shooter Georgia Heffernan returns to the elite netball ranks after completing a gutsy knee rehabilitation over the past year. She is joined by the franchise’s returning midcourt quartet comprising Silver Ferns Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan along with Ali Wilshier and Renee Savai’inaea.
Previously announced players include defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Sarahpheinna Woulf and Kate Burley and shooters George Fisher and Saviour Tui.
Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham was delighted with the final dynamics of her squad.
“I think the most exciting thing has been watching it all unfold during the recruitment phase,” she said.
“It’s a coach’s dream to be able to retain the core of a successful team and have the opportunity to continue building on that.”
Heffernan’s determination had been rewarded.
“When I gave her the call and she received the news, she was really emotional about it and I think that’s a reflection of all the hard work that she’s put in to get herself back to even be in contention,” Bloxham said.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Georgia again. I feel like she was just getting started last season so it will be great for her to come back in and keep developing her goal attack game.”
Leadership was a vital part of the overall equation with Saunders proving a proficient captain since being awarded the honour.
“I’m absolutely stoked that Shannon is coming back. Watching her play and lead the team this season has just been really exciting. She looks like she’s refreshed and just raring to go so I think it’s been great for her personal gain having a new challenge of that leadership role. She’s played exceptionally well and really looks like she’s enjoyed her job,” Bloxham said.
The addition of Tui and Burley was an injection of new talent.
“Both Saviour and Kate have been players I’ve watched and tracked over the last couple of seasons, and I thought they would fit our team and also our culture and the community down here so I’m really excited about what they’re going to bring,” she said.
“This season showed if you can get what’s happening off the court right, then usually what happens on the court is a reflection of that. To really make sure we keep building on the culture that we are creating has been a key thing for us and that means having the right people in the environment.
“There’s still a bit of the unknown and I think that element of surprise is great in that nobody can really work you out yet. These players are not new to the ANZ Premiership, but they are new to this team and it’s about how we mold them together and get them working effectively as a unit.
“I always think I’ve got the team to do it. I definitely think we’ve got the right recipe again and we know that we’ve going to have to put in that hard work preseason to make sure we can gel those combinations. But I believe we’ve got the right people there to take us to the finals.”
Bloxham has watched the player movements of other franchises with interest.
“We’ve had a piece of paper at home where we’ve made predictions and as they’ve been announced we’ve been crossing them off, so I’ve enjoyed it as much as everyone else has. It’s really exciting to see that there has been a bit of movement as well because it adds to the dynamic of the competition,” she said.
“This year was one of the closest competitions we’ve had so far. You had to perform every game, week in week out, to give yourself the best opportunity and it’s great for our sport that we have that depth now.
“I think next year’s going to be exactly the same. It’s going to be awesome.”
For further information, contact: Kate Buchanan, Media Manager - 021 292 1660