The Southern Steel were back in action yesterday holding their first training session of 2014 and also their first in the rebuilt Stadium Southland in Invercargill.
The Steel squad – minus international players Jodi Brown, Shannon Francois, Phoenix Karaka and Jhaniele Fowler, were put through their paces yesterday.
It started with fitness testing before coach Janine Southby threw the ball into the mix to work on some on-court skills, in particular the attacking component.
"Today was really reconnecting as a group and also focusing on attacking, getting the ball driven down the court.
"We're a little bit limited with a couple of players away with the Silver Ferns but we're trying to get the best out of the group we have and focus on what we can."
Midcourter Wendy Frew said it was nice to be back training inside Stadium Southland.
"We've waited three long years for this and it's a fantastic feeling to be back in our traditional home at ILT Stadium," she said.
"We can already imagine the intensity and atmosphere our fans are going to create in here on game day and that's got us really fired up."
With the opening game of the 2014 ANZ Championship just seven weeks away, game time is quickly becoming a key focus.
Steel will kick start its pre-season campaign against the New Zealand champion Canterbury men's netball team in Timaru on February 8, before taking on the Canterbury Tactix later that day.
The Steel development, Tactix train-on and Canterbury men's under-21 teams will also compete at the pre-season series.
All 10 ANZ Championship franchises will then gather in Melbourne for the official pre-season event, dubbed the "summer shootout", over the weekend of February 15-16.
Steel chief executive Sue Clarke said the franchise was committed to providing valuable preparation for the team, especially with Brown, Francois, Karaka and Fowler unavailable this month due to international duties.
"With the international calendar impacting on our own preparations, it's vitally important we schedule these hitouts in February for the team to continue cementing combinations," Clarke said.
"Teams certainly don't reveal too many secrets pre-season and we will no doubt see some intriguing lineups at times, but these are elite athletes and every encounter will be immensely competitive.
"The fixture in Timaru also allows us to experience other facets of the game and we are really looking forward to the challenge the Canterbury men's team will provide."
The Steel will host last year's beaten grand finalists, the Queensland Firebirds, in the opening clash at the stadium in Invercargill on March 2.
- The Southland Times