Three of New Zealand netball's brightest young stars head to the World Youth Championships in Scotland tomorrow with their trans-Tasman futures secured.
NZ under-21 captain Storm Purvis, fellow defender Phoenix Karaka and shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who was last week named in Netball New Zealand's accelerant squad, have re-signed with the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel for the 2014 season.
The trio joins an experienced nucleus of players already confirmed by the franchise, including Silver Fern shooter Jodi Brown and Jamaican international Jhaniele Fowler, midcourters Wendy Frew, Phillipa Finch and Shannon Francois and defender Rachel Rasmussen.
Purvis said finalising her franchise contract was a priority before embarking on the under-21 campaign.
''That was one of the biggest things on my to-do list. You can't really go away with all this pressure on your shoulders to still sort out your future so it's nice to have all that ticked off,'' she said.
She was excited to commit to a third season with the Steel franchise.
''The environment is just absolutely awesome and having that core group around was a big draw card because we have got such a great team culture. We have been developing for the past couple of years so you could say as a group we have unfinished business,'' she said.
''I still feel like I've got a lot to learn in this game and in this competition. Obviously for me earning more court time is a real focus next season.''
The bulk of the NZ under-21 team featured at various New Zealand franchises this season, which provided vital experience heading into the World Youth Championships, which will be contested in Glasgow from August 22.
''You probably couldn't get any better preparation for us than that - it's an intense high performance environment and the girls have learned so much from being immersed in it. I think it has set us up really well for this tournament,'' Purvis said.
Steel chief executive Sue Clarke said retaining the trio was integral to the future of the franchise.
''Their talent is undeniable - approaches they have fielded from rival franchises are testament to that - and we are delighted they have remained loyal to the Steel because each is a very important piece of the overall puzzle we are putting together,'' she said.
''The commitment and skills Te Paea, Storm and Phoenix have each shown in previous seasons with the Steel certainly keeps our more senior players honest when it comes to earning those bibs and I have no doubt that will remain the case in 2014.''
- © Fairfax NZ News