Francois re-signs for Steel after South beaten

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: South’s Gina Crampton and Waikato’s Samantha Sinclair in action during the national under-23 final in Dunedin.
MICHAEL BRADLEY
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: South’s Gina Crampton and Waikato’s Samantha Sinclair in action during the national under-23 final in Dunedin.

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Netball South had a win and a loss yesterday, with Shannon Francois committing to another season with the Southern Steel while the high-powered under-23 team were beaten in the national final for the second straight year.

Francois joins a 2015 roster that includes Wendy Frew, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, Storm Purvis and Phoenix Karaka.

''It's crazy to think this will be my fourth year but I'm extremely excited to be back with Steel. It's a great team to be part of and I actually love it down here - I feel very settled,'' she said.

''Coming fifth this year, we were so close to that semifinals spot and finished the season so strongly. I really want to get into that top four ... we just have to keep building on what we achieved this year and make it happen.'' The news wasn't so good in Dunedin, where a team featuring Steel players Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Purvis, Karaka, Gina Crampton and Stacey Peeters were beaten 60-58 by Waikato/Bay of Plenty.

The two teams met in the final last year as well, with Waikato stealing the game in the last minute.

The Netball South team trailed 30-22 at halftime but fought back to lead in the third and fourth quarters before eventually losing by two goals.

Crampton, Karaka and Selby-Rickit were named in the under-23 tournament team, while the Wakatipu and Southland teams finished 18th and 19th, respectively, in the under-19 competition.

Meanwhile, Francois' signature strengthens the Steel midcourt but the franchise is still missing a piece of the puzzle without an experienced centre to replace Phillipa Finch.

Camilla Lees and Laura Langman have both confirmed they will be playing for the Mystics next season, leaving the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel short on options.

Francois leaves with the Silver Ferns on Monday for the Commonwealth Games and said her focus was firmly on Glasgow now her trans-Tasman league future was finalised.

''It's definitely something that you don't want to be worrying about while you are away so it's good to get it all sorted,'' she said.

''Now I can just focus on winning that gold medal.'' The Invercargill-based pharmacist was eagerly anticipating the prospect of rubbing shoulders with the world's sporting elite in Glasgow.

''Just to be given the chance to be in the athletes' village and the Games' environment itself is incredible and I just want to soak it all up and enjoy every moment.'' Steel chief executive Sue Clarke said Francois was testament the franchise was now reaping the rewards of its commitment to develop emerging talent.

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''Shannon launched her ANZ Championship career with the Steel and it has been wonderful to see her develop over the past few years to the point where she has now cemented her place as one of New Zealand's best,'' she said.

''We're proud of what she has achieved during her time in the Steel. Her training ethic is unrivalled and she is such a positive influence. It will be exciting to see the impact she continues to have.''

- The Southland Times

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