Injury-hit Steel make shock call for Dalton

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2011
Tania Dalton
ON STANDBY: Former Silver Fern Tania Dalton is set to return to top-flight netball.

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Former Silver Fern and Southern Sting shooter Tania Dalton is set to make a shock return to the netball court to help Steel's injury-ravaged lineup.

Steel chief executive Julie Paterson confirmed yesterday they had approached the 39-year-old and she had been placed on standby as a short-term replacement for Daneka Wipiiti, battling an ankle injury.

Dalton is a favourite of Southland fans after starring for the all-conquering Sting side in the National Bank Cup from 2002-06. In 2008, she answered an SOS for Steel when Megan Dehn strained her ankle but did not take to the court.

Paterson said they were assessing Wipiiti's injury daily and had up to 24 hours before Monday's trans-Tasman netball league opener against the Northern Mystics to add her to their lineup. Dalton is a member of Sky Sports netball commentary team, but would be available, should Steel require her services.

Steel had scoured the country for a backup shooter and Paterson said Dalton was a player with a wealth of experience – which they desperately craved.

If Wipiiti was ruled out, Steel's only other shooters outside former Silver Fern Paula Griffin would be ANZ Championship rookies Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Sophia Fenwick.

"We've replaced experience with experience. We're really happy with our young players coming through. It would be a massive ask to put them out there for the first game in their first year in the ANZ Championship."

Paterson said Dalton was still extremely fit and would be an excellent fit if she was called into the gameday squad of 12 players.

"She's got a massive amount of experience. She's a great person and a real character. She adds a huge amount of value."

Wipiiti is on the comeback trail from an ankle injury sustained at the Queenstown preseason tournament and did not take part in full team training last night.

Steel coach Robyn Broughton admitted the chances of Wipiiti playing on Monday were bleak. She was not concerned by Dalton's long absence from top-level netball or her age. "I know she's still a great netballer."

If Wipiiti was sidelined, she said she would hold off making a decision about who would start in the shooting circle until the game.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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