By all accounts, defender Kate Burley has had a big week.
Last Sunday she hoisted the ANZ Premiership silverware aloft with the Mystics, by Tuesday she had been named in the Silver Ferns development squad and today she’s signed with the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.
Burley, 24, joins returning defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Sarahpheinna Woulf in what is shaping up to be a powerful defensive trio. She will step into a defensive unit missing regular goal keep Taniesha Fifita who is taking a break from netball to fulfil her lifelong dream of doing her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For Burley, the decision to venture south from her Auckland home was based on securing vital court time as she endeavors to reach the sport’s top echelon.
“Being named in the development squad is definitely a step in the direction I want to be going in so it’s another one closer to one day making that Ferns squad,” she said.
“That’s a big factor in my move – putting court time and learning ahead of convenience. It would have definitely been easier to stay at home but I really want to push myself. This year was when I decided I want give netball a good crack and I really want to strive for those higher honours so hopefully this will contribute to that in some way.
“I saw it as a cool opportunity because you can see from the outside the Steel environment looks great. To be honest, I never thought I would look at leaving Auckland but I’ve seen so many great players move away and I’ve seen their results and how they have grown.”
Steel’s new-look squad produced some dynamic netball on its journey to the ANZ Premiership finals this year and Burley was keen to be part of the action.
“I thought why not now when the team is still rebuilding which is really exciting,” she said.
“I’m really looking forward to it. There’s still that little part of me that’s a bit scared because it is such a big move but I’ve talked to some of the older girls at Mystics and they’ve told me that’s where the most growth happens.
“I think I have the ability to hunt and slot into their game plan on how they get ball. That’s where their unit defence is so awesome and hopefully I can add to that.
“In terms of team culture, I’m really looking forward to contributing and the girls all seem really nice and fun. I’m looking forward to soaking up what they have to offer and learning from them.”
After three years at the Robinhood Stars, the rangy defender switched to the Mystics in 2020 and has thrived in the competitive environment which features Silver Ferns Sulu Fitzpatrick, Phoenix Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and England stalwart Ama Agbeze.
‘”Winning the premiership was just so, so cool. Especially being my last game for the Mystics, it was nice to finish it on a high,” she said.
“I’ve definitely learned heaps … there are so many defenders there and that’s what attracted me. I wanted to learn a new perspective on defence and grow as a player. The environment was really challenging because everyone had such high expectations. I felt like I really learned how to push myself.”
Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham was thrilled with the potential of her defensive line-up.
“It’s versatility with power, speed and brains,” she said.
“Kate will add a new dynamic – she has quick closing speed but is agile and has good hops to compete for ball in the air.
“Sarahpheinna can build on all the work she has done to date. She’s been used as a super sub, providing critical turnover this season, and is ready to push her way into the starting line-up.
“And Te Huinga is like the conductor. She positions herself and others well to keep the unit working together to create pressure and force turn overs.”