McCloud all set to 'kick butt' back home
Southern Steel's Australian import, Demelza McClou, has fond memories of the last time she marked up against Adelaide Thunderbirds' sharpshooter Carla Borrego in a netball game.
Playing for her Matrics club in the South Australia premier grade grand final last year, McCloud produced a stellar showing in the defensive circle and shut down Jamaican international Borrego, to help her team to win the championship.
It was the first senior title of McCloud's career after losing 10 straight finals before that, and she said it was a special moment she would never forget.
McCloud and Borrego will line up against each other again tonight, when Steel face the Thunderbirds in Adelaide. Borrego has slotted the fourth-highest number of goals to date in this year's trans-Tasman league, converting 154 goals from 179 attempts (86 per cent), and Steel will need to limit the flow of ball into her if they are to have any chance of sticking with the talented South Australian side on the scoreboard.
"Carla is an absolute juggernaut on her own," McCloud said. "The centre and goal defence from our team is going to have the hardest job to shut down (Adelaide's) Nat von Bertouch and Erin Bell. They provide the space and ball for Carla. That's what makes her great. We have to stop the supply."
Tonight's game will be a homecoming for McCloud, who played for the Thunderbirds from 2001 to 2006 in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy competition and lives in Adelaide outside of the netball season. Her mother and two brothers also reside in the wine capital of Australia, and McCloud said she would have about 100 family and friends in the stands at the Netball SA Stadium.
Netball has a long and proud history in Adelaide. Many Diamonds' internationals have come from the South Australia region, and the Thunderbirds have been a force, not only in the Australian domestic league, but now the ANZ Championship.
McCloud's six years with the Thunderbirds had been a special time and she said it had been a pleasure to play alongside so many quality netballers.
"In my early years, I played with some of the biggest legends of Australian netball, like Kathryn Harby, Rebecca Sanders, Jacqui Delaney and Peta Scholz.
"Then from 2003 to 2006 we had this group of about 10, who stayed together the whole time. It was just magic, the train of success we were on, and the performance and excellence that was expected of us."
Steel will be returning to action tonight after having a bye last weekend. They will be trying to win their first game on Australian soil, after losing all 11 previous encounters since the ANZ Championship began in 2008.
Adelaide are riding high, having won four of their opening five games, and McCloud said her team had to cut down their turnover rate and improve their through-court defence if they were to challenge their opponents.
"We're working really hard on treasuring our possession, because it's just not easy to come by in this competition ... We have to bring our A game. We want to focus on us and kick some butt over here."
Steel shooters Donna Wilkins (fractured finger) and Jodi Brown (stomach strain) have both been battling injuries during the past fortnight, but Steel co-coach Janine Southby said they would be fine for tonight's game.
The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel face a dilemma over who to start at goal defence, with former Silver Fern Sheryl Scanlan suffering from a lack of form and fitness. Youngster Storm Purvis, who started at goal keep against West Coast Fever, might be an option to move further up the court, or Steel could hand a debut to Waikaka's Louise Thayer.
"It could be an option to use someone like Lou this week. She can be unpredictable and a real menace to attacking players," Southby said.
Southern Steel: Jodi Brown (c), Donna Wilkins, Courtney Tairi, Shannon Francois, Phillipa Finch, Storm Purvis, Demelza McCloud, Hayley Saunders, Louise Thayer, Sheryl Scanlan, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Ashleigh Smith.
Adelaide Thunderbirds: Carla Borrego, Erin Bell, Emily Beaton, Natalie von Bertouch, Renae Hallinan, Rebecca Bulley, Sharni Layton, Madeleine Proud, Kate Shimmin, Cody Lange, Melissa Rowland, Amehlia Schmidt.
The Southland Times