Steel out to forge closer bonds with three-day camp

Southern Steel's revamped squad will link up for the first time as a group today, as they begin preparations for next year's trans-Tasman netball competition.

All the Steel squad, except giant Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler, will be in Invercargill during the next three days.

The team will take part in team-building exercises this afternoon, with conditioning testing being held tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon, the squad will attend the Southland Racing Club's Christmas meeting at Ascot Park Raceway, with several players judging the fashion in the field competition.

On Sunday, there will be another conditioning session and individual meetings with players.

The three-day camp will be an ideal opportunity for the Steel players to connect with each other and find out where they are at with their fitness levels leading into the new year.

Steel have six new faces in their squad for next season, including Fowler, New Zealand under-21 players Phoenix Karaka, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, Stacey Peeters, Otago shooter Kate Shearer, and experienced defender Rachel Rasmussen.

Southlander Wendy Frew is returning to the team after missing last season because of pregnancy, while young midcourter Gina Crampton, who deputised this season, has gained her first full contract.

The Steel players have been carrying out individual training sessions during the past few months, and Southby said everyone needed to keep working hard in the leadup to Christmas and New Year.

The team will take a brief break during the festive season and gather together again in Invercargill for pre-season training on January 14.

"The players have to get into the workload pretty quickly. That's why the next five to six weeks is pretty crucial for them," Southby said.

"We can't afford to lose ground over this Christmas period."

The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel made a bright start to the 2012 season, winning two of their opening three games, but ended up finishing second last, after losing 10 consecutive outings.

They again lack the star power that many of other sides in the competition possess, but Southby was excited by the mix they had assembled.

"Someone asked me the other day what's my Christmas wish and it would really be that this team performs to the potential that they show," she said. "They are a hugely exciting group. For us next year, it's about getting those connections really quickly and establishing the standards."

Steel's opening trans-Tasman netball league game is against the Queensland Firebirds, in Brisbane, on March 24.