Sacrifices motivate new Southern Steel import

HIGH HOPES: New Southern Steel netballer Jhaniele Fowler hopes to be a dominant figure in this year’s transTasman competition.
HIGH HOPES: New Southern Steel netballer Jhaniele Fowler hopes to be a dominant figure in this year’s transTasman competition.

Southern Steel import Jhaniele Fowler won't accept failure in this year's trans-Tasman competition - she's sacrificed too much to be here.

The 23-year-old goal shoot arrived in Invercargill this week, soaking up a glorious, 25 degrees Celsius, day, which was still about 2C colder than a winter's day in Jamaica, and began to settle into her first season of professional netball.

To play for Steel she has had to give up playing for her beloved Jamaican Sunshine Girls in a test series against England in April, but most of all she has had to leave behind 3-year-old daughter Drehannah.

"It makes me much more determined because making those sacrifices and not doing well is not part of my plan," Fowler said.

"Making those sacrifices, I have to give 110 per cent in whatever I'm doing."

Leaving Drehannah behind had been difficult, but would hopefully be a good move in the long run, Fowler said.

"She's so awesome. She's all right, she's with family - her dad and her grandma - so I don't have to worry, although I wish I had her here with me.

"It's for the best and I'll speak to her as often as I can and I'll see her via Skype," she said.

"For six months, it will be tough.

"This is the longest I've been away from her, I don't think I'd be able to do it again. It will work out for the better."

This is Fowler's second attempt at cracking the trans-Tasman competition.

Last year she was being lined up to play for the Adelaide Thunderbirds, but the deal fell through when her former Jamaican team-mate Carla Borrego was unable to gain Australian citizenship.

"It didn't quite play out when Carla didn't get her citizenship. The rules state you can't have two imports on one team . . .

"I think I knew why it didn't work out, because I'm supposed to be here with Steel and God knows best," Fowler said.

"I'm where I'm supposed to be and I thank God for that."

Softly spoken and armed with a ready smile, Fowler is an impressive athlete.

At 1.98m, she will be the tallest player in this year's trans-Tasman competition, 2cm taller than her Jamaican team-mate and now Queensland Firebirds rival Romelda Aiken.

Sheer height alone won't be enough to lift Southern Steel from the trans-Tasman basement, however.

Fowler has played international netball for the past four years and was the best shooter in last year's Fast5 series.

Now she has ambitions to be the best shooter in what is world netball's toughest franchise series.

"That is a goal for me and that's what I'm going to work on," Fowler said.

"Being accurate will benefit my Steel team in the competition, so that's my aim for myself and my team."

Fowler said she was settling into Invercargill more quickly than she had expected.

She met some of her Steel team-mates, who were on their way to a New Zealand under-21 camp, while in transit in Auckland on Monday, and attended a Steel training in Invercargill yesterday.

Life will become more comfortable when team sponsor Bedpost delivers a bed custom made to fit her lanky frame.

Back home in Jamaica, the Steel will have a guaranteed band of followers keeping track of Fowler's progress via the web.

Her arrival in the transTasman competition - she follows in the court shoes of Aiken (Firebirds), Borrego (Thunderbirds), Althea Byfield (Pulse/Mystics) and Kasey Evering (Tactix) - is considered to be bittersweet back in Jamaica.

While netball fans there are pleased to see one of their own getting a chance on the world stage, it also means they are unavailable for the Sunshine Girls.

"We have England coming up and I'm not going to be there to be part of that team," Fowler said.

"That's disappointing for my team-mates and my country, but they understand what I'm coming here to do and they understand that it's for the betterment of myself and my family, and even my team-mates, because I'm going to get a lot of experience."

Steel's 2013 campaign starts against the Firebirds in Brisbane on March 24.

The Southland Times