Southern Steel retain key players for 2013
The Southern Steel has achieved its goal of retaining the nucleus of its squad to contest the 2013 trans-Tasman netball championship.
Coach Janine Southby said so far six players from the 2012 roster had committed to the franchise.
"Retaining that core group is important to us and I'm really excited about the talent we have and the potential of this team," she said.
The team's experience is bolstered by Silver Fern shooter Jodi Brown and the return of former Silver Fern midcourter Wendy Frew.
A stalwart of the southern franchise for over a decade, Frew welcomed her first son, Archie, in August.
"While absolutely nothing can beat the joys of motherhood, I am looking forward to returning to the court next year," Frew said.
"I have always been extremely proud to represent this region and with returning to the Steel I hope I can ultimately show Archie the importance loyalty, teamwork and working hard to achieve your goals."
Dynamic Australian Courtney Tairi also returns in the midcourt alongside fellow Silver Ferns trialist Shannon Francois, while Te Paea Selby-Rickit - fresh from an outstanding campaign for the national championship-winning Otago NPC team - will feature in Steel colours for the third season.
NZ under-21 captain and 2012 Rookie of the Year finalist Storm Purvis adds a formidable element to the defensive ranks which will also include promising young talent and former Silver Fern Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, who heads south from the title-winning Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
Brown, who recently returned to the national team after a five-year hiatus, said she was excited about the season ahead.
"We had a lot of new factors last season - players, coaches and management involved with the Steel for the first time, new expectations and cultures to establish. Now, with the core of our team returning, we won't be starting from scratch again so it will be great to just take a step forward in terms of what we are aiming to build here," she said.
"There will be a lot more responsibility back on the players. Last season was a time for learning and taking on information, now it's time for us to step up and lead the way."
Steel chief executive David Bannister said negotiations were continuing with several players to further strengthen the squad.
"Our primary focus is to re-sign the bulk of our players from this year. We established a strong foundation of exciting talent and, in order to continuing building from that, we need to retain those players involved," he said.
"Our attention is also on signing new players we believe will add increased value to our team.
"We are also excited about the opportunity to recruit extra development players in an extended squad of 14. The experience they will gain from being involved in netball's elite environment can only have a positive impact for the future of netball in the south."