Southern Steel: What has changed?

THE ANZ Premiership returns this week after an enforced hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The break has done wonders for some teams allowing them to iron out issues and give time for players to focus on recovery. However some teams return to the season a little different than how they entered the 2020 season. Draft Central takes a look back at the Round 1 action, 2019 season and what has changed over the last couple of months. 

Coach: Reinga Bloxham
Captain: Gina Crampton
2019 finish: 3rd

After falling short of the grand final in 2019, the Steel will be hoping to make amends in 2020 and go one further however they hit a roadblock in Round 1, going down by six goals. With a new look team, it will be up to the strong midcourt group to lead the way for the Steel in 2020 due to the number of young and inexperienced players joining the ranks. In saying that the Steel ooze plenty of excitement and potential given majority of their players are unknown quantities looking to make a name for themselves.

With a wealth of changes over the off-season the COVID-19 forced break may have gifted the Steel with extra time to perfect and hone in connections across the court. Newbie Trinidad and Tobago goaler Kalifa McCollin is still adapting to the ANZ Premiership environment while the likes of Georgia Heffernan and Kate Heffernan are still both relatively new to the high paced environment. While McCollin has World Cup experience coming into a new team, country and league can be daunting. 

Looking ahead:
With youth on their side, the Steel will be hoping to exploit their opposition with their speed and quick ball movement. Expect the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood to step up in defence and create plenty of turnover ball given their tenacity and hunt for the ball to allow for attacking forays. Meanwhile, the experience of Gina Crampton will pay dividends in the attacking third with her quick hands, vision into the circle and silky footwork around the circle edge. In the goal circle the responsibility could fall on 193cm shooter Jennifer O’Connell with the goal shooter already proving to be an easy target under the post who can stand up under pressure, deliver at a high accuracy and put up a high volume of goals. 

Key player:
Given the young and new shooting circle, the pressure lands on Shannon Saunders to stand up with the centre one of the most influential players on court. She can dictate space with her impressive leads, well-timed drives, strength around the top of the goal circle and dynamic footwork. Her ability to deliver into the circle will be crucial for the Steel’s success in 2020 as she will be the main provider and play maker in the attacking third. Her experience and vision will also play a pivotal role in defence, helping to shut down attacking options and using her quick transition play to link up attack and defence.

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