Ailing Steel's two-city split analysed

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2012
Southland
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ
Southern Steel shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit.

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Southern Steel skipper Jodi Brown believes the franchise may need to look at having all of their players based in the same city if they are to improve.

This year, most of the Steel players were based in Dunedin, with the rest of the team residing in Invercargill. The Dunedin players had regional sessions most days with co-coach Janine Southby, while the Invercargill-based members of the team worked with co-coach Natalie Avellino.

The team also met about three times a week as a squad to prepare for the weekend game, and that involved a lot of commuting.

It was not an ideal situation, but something the Steel franchise had to deal with because of their scattered geographic boundary.

All the other trans-Tasman netball league teams, except Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, operate out of one city, which makes it much easier for players to meet for training and video sessions.

Brown said having some team members in Dunedin and others in Invercargill had been difficult at times and she acknowledged it was something the franchise might have to address during the off-season.

"Some things have been a challenge and need to be looked at again. Trying to marry two regions together and having two bases needs looking at. I don't think they're major things.

"We've had good management in process in both Dunedin and Invercargill. I think it's just a matter of tweaking little things."

With Invercargill-based players Courtney Tairi and Sheryl Scanlan both suffering season-ending injuries, it left Avellino with only three fit players to work with at the Southland regional sessions, which had not been great for the buildup to games.

Brown pointed out that the regional sessions had still been extremely valuable. When the squad met as a team, they did not have to spend time revisiting certain areas of their play.

Steel would face a dilemma if they decided to have all their playing squad based in the one city. The franchise has its headquarters in Invercargill and the city is also the home of its major sponsors – the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the Community Trust of Southland. Most of this year's squad live in the Otago region, however, including several promising young talents, who attend the University of Otago.

The Steel franchise will begin to review the completed season this week.

Brian Hopley, who is Rugby Southland's general manager, and the former high-performance manager of Netball Queensland, will help out with that process.

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Steel chief executive David Bannister acknowledged it had not been easy having players in two cities. He expected there would be plenty of discussion around that topic during the debrief.

"There was a lot of travel involved. It took a lot of physical and emotional energy to make that work. Given that, the two coaches have done very well.

"We'll have a review and we'll see what comes out in the wash. If that means going from two training centres to one, so be it."

Steel brought the curtain down on a difficult 2012 season on Saturday afternoon with a 56-38 drubbing by the table-topping Melbourne Vixens at the velodrome.

Steel won only two of their 13 games, and finished their campaign with a franchise-record 10 consecutive losses.

One of the positives to come out of Steel's campaign was the play of ANZ Championship rookies Shannon Francois and Storm Purvis, who both made tremendous progress from the start of the year and established themselves as starters.

Youngsters Hayley Saunders, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Louise Thayer and Gina Crampton also had their moments.

Southby said the challenge for their young players was to go away, finetune their games, and become fitter, faster and stronger.

"The biggest thing for them is they've got to get that consistency in their game. We know they can do it in patches," she said.

"To be competitive and be a really strong player, and be considered a real force in this league, you've got to be able to be doing that for the game."

Southby and Avellino will also need to start casting an eye towards 2013 and figure out which players they need to target during the off-season.

Steel have the makings of a promising squad, but desperately need more experience and depth in their ranks.

High on their shopping list will be a quality goal defence, and a versatile midcourter.

- Southland

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