Steel confidence builds

Steel captain Jodi Brown tussels with Tactix Zoe Walker during the ANZ Champs netball match at the CBS Arena in Christchurch.
Steel captain Jodi Brown tussels with Tactix Zoe Walker during the ANZ Champs netball match at the CBS Arena in Christchurch.

Steel captain Jodi Brown is happy to have a helping pair of hands in the shooting circle, she tells Mike Houlahan.

Last ANZ Netball Championship season, if you had looked at the match statistics and seen Southern Steel skipper Jodi Brown had only taken 11 shots in a match, you would have feared the Otago-Southland franchise had copped a hiding.

This season though, it looks like being a different story.

Against the Canterbury Tactix last Saturday Brown made 10 of her 11 shots . . . but shooting circle partner Jhaniele Fowler landed an astounding and record-setting 65 goals from 70 attempts as the Steel recorded its first win for 2013.

"She is the tallest girl in the competition so it does make it a bit easier to find her," Brown laughs.

The towering Jamaican international has certainly added a new dimension to the Steel this year.

Although the season is just two games old, the team looks like it is set to compete for the play-off spots, something it has failed to do recently.

While Brown is keen to stress that it is early days, she does detect greater confidence in the Steel camp than at this time last year.

"I think it's because we've now had that year together.

"I've been here for year, the coaches have been here for a year, the CEO has been here for a year, and we know each other better and now what we want to achieve.

"We have a blend of youth and experience, and I think that takes time to gel," Brown said.

"We also have a full squad of 14, and no injuries coming out of pre-season.

"Last season we had a squad of 12 and injuries, and that made it hard at times."

The Steel were very much a work in progress last year, with the franchise keen to ensure Dunedin felt a part of what had previously been seen as an Invercargill team.

While not everything went smoothly in that regard last season, a full post-season review sees the squad remain based in both centres and home games split between the two cities.

Dunedin is first cab off the rank this weekend, hosting Steel's home opener.

Visitors the Adelaide Thunderbirds are a tough team to assess, having won against perennial strugglers Central Pulse in week one but copping a fearful hiding from last season's minor premiers the Melbourne Vixens over the weekend.

"I don't think that was good for us because they'll be keen to bounce back and show what they are made of," Brown said.

"But we took a lot of confidence from our win and we were really excited about the way we played."

The Thunderbirds will be a step up, Brown warned, and said the Steel need to guard against relaxing in any of the four quarters - a fault which has dogged them in both games thus far.

Then there is the threat posed by the Thunderbirds's own Jamaican shooting star, Carla Borrego. The match-up is sure to be an intriguing one.

"I'm sure they will be trying to shut Jhaniele down and we'll be trying to do the same to Borrego," Brown said.

Southern Steel v Adelaide Thunderbirds. Edgar Centre, April 6, 4.20pm.

D Scene