WITH a host of young talent littered throughout the ANZ Premiership competition Draft Central takes a look at one key player each week. This week Southern Steel midcourter Kate Heffernan is in the spotlight, with the wing defence playing her role well over the past few weeks and upping her pressure.
A versatile midcourter, 20-year-old Heffernan has set herself up for a solid season with her improved speed and movement in her second year with the Steel. With a proven work ethic and plenty of drive to go better than her last effort, Heffernan has been a crucial link-up in wing defence this season, plying her trade for much of the season down back and using her attacking ability to drive the ball back up the court where required. Elite netball runs in the Heffernan family, with mother Annette Heffernan a Silver Fern of the 1980s, while twin sister Georgia also took the court for the Steel this season before a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury cut her season short.
On the taller side for a midcourter, Heffernan uses her long wingspan to reach for the loose ball and play a blocking defensive game, able to cut off her opposition with her unsuspectingly quick footwork as well as block vision down the court. Patient with ball in hand and able to ply her trade across any midcourt position after transitioning to wing defence from centre last season, Heffernan plays with plenty of intensity to create loose ball and provide defensive gets for her teammates down back.
While not always having a huge match on the stats sheet, Heffernan proves her necessity on the court with her ability to shut down attackers, once again using her height to limit vision. She is able to track her wing attack around the court regardless of their speed, with her long legs allowing her to stay a step ahead. This was evident in her Round 7 effort against Northern Mystics, with the young talent shutting down livewire Peta Toeava leading to the wing attack’s removal from the court, which was a crucial point for the Steel’s victory.
Heffernan’s ability to disrupt play is crucial while her ability to stay away from the whistle is just as impressive, averaging about seven penalties per game and with just eight turnovers to her name across her 10 matches, indicating her cleanliness with ball in hand. Pairing up well with Shannon Saunders in centre, Heffernan has developed her craft with Saunders’ help, becoming a more dogged and influential player every time she takes the court. Heffernan’s turn of speed has allowed her to rack up 23 deflections, 12 pickups and 10 intercepts for the season, consistently providing that extra defensive layer down back and limiting the work Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita have to do outside the circle.
In Round 8, expect Heffernan to maintain that work rate against some quality opposition, first taking on Northern Stars’ Grace Kara on Saturday evening – with the Stars coming off a hefty loss – before facing Whitney Souness and a hungry Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side on Monday night. Both players are high-impact players but their sides have been shut down fairly well this season when the wing attack has been limited at circle edge, meaning Heffernan’s job could be the game-changer on both occasions.