Erena Mikaere signs with the West Coast Fever
Southern Steel defender Erena Mikaere will join the West Coast Fever for the 2015 trans-Tasman netball competition.
The Fever have confirmed they have picked up Mikaere and April Letton from the New South Wales Swifts on two-year contracts.
Mikaere will become the first New Zealand player to line up for an Australian team.
The 1.93m 26-year-old joined the Steel this year after three seasons with the Waikato/BOP Magic.
In her starting debut for the Steel - ironically against the Fever in Dunedin - Mikaere was outstanding, even catching the eye of the national selectors.
However, much of Mikaere's time this year with the Steel was spent watching from the bench with the likes of Rachel Rasmussen, Phoenix Karaka and Storm Purvis occupying most of the court time at the defence end.
Karaka and Purvis have already been re-signed by the Steel for the 2015 season and look to be the preferred combination in the defensive circle.
Not surprisingly Mikaere jumped at the Fever's offer as she chases more court time.
Mikaere told Australian media it was a big decision to move from her home in New Zealand but she was looking forward to linking with the Fever.
"It is an experience and a big opportunity to play with the Australian style," she said. "My preferred position is goalkeeper, but I wouldn't turn down any opportunity to be on court."
Southern Steel chief executive Sue Clarke said the franchise wished Mikaere and her family great success in Perth.
"Erena can take great pride in making history as the first New Zealand player recruited as an import for an Australian franchise - it's fantastic to see the door finally swing in the other direction," she said.
"I know after speaking with Erena this was an extremely tough decision to make as she has really thrived in the Steel environment. The combined work opportunity for both Erena and her partner William meant the family being able to stay together was a strong motivator and, as a franchise where family is an important factor, we respect this.
"I'm sure Erena will embrace this next chapter in her career and we look forward to watching her shine."
The Steel have five players at the moment officially locked in for the 2015 season. They are Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, Shannon Francois, Wendy Frew, Purvis and Karaka.
The Steel are expected to announce more re-signings this week.
This year's captain, Jodi Brown, has not been offered a contract extension with Te Paea Selby-Rickit at short odds to re-sign and take her spot in the attacking circle with Fowler-Reid.
Midcourter Phillipa Finch has opted not to return in 2015, heading back to Christchurch instead.
The jostling for players has heated up with franchises expected to have their signings sorted in the next month.
- The Southland Times