Lanky netball defender Erena Mikaere feels the time is right to make a splash in the trans-Tasman competition.
After three seasons with the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic, where she managed less than one game in total of playing time behind Silver Ferns Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin, the 25-year-old has moved to the Southern Steel with ambitions to move off the pine and into a starting bib.
"I've learnt so much, it's time to see if I can put it out there, I need an opportunity to do that," she said.
"It was hard [at the Magic], but I just thought every day 'everybody wants to be in the position that I'm in right now'."
Mikaere said the opportunity to join the Steel's defensive lineup, where she will replace Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick from last season's team, was timely.
"When I looked at them, I thought 'that team's heading for the top four'. That was part of the deal, I thought if I could be part of that team going for the top four then that would be good."
Mikaere, whose 4-year-old daughter Bileigh will join her in Invercargill soon, has rediscovered an interest in art since arriving in Invercargill.
"I did it in high school, but it was different because you had to do it a certain way. I dropped it after high school and then when I first came down here I had nothing to do so I went and bought some pens and paper and canvases and that's all I've been doing, besides training," she said.
"It's been a really good way to get back into it. I try and do it to relax and de-stress, something to come away and do after training."
It's been a big week for the Steel after they were allowed to train on the centre court at the rebuilt Stadium Southland for the first time, having spent the past couple of weeks on an outer community court.
Training surrounded by 4000 empty seats had given the players some idea of what they could expect when the season starts at home against the Queensland Firebirds on March 2.
The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team head to Timaru on Saturday for games against the Canterbury men's team and the Tactix and then travel to Melbourne on Thursday for the Summer Shootout preseason competition involving all 10 trans-Tasman teams.
Final preparations will involve a team building camp in Wanaka, including visits to Central Otago schools.
Season membership passes and tickets to individual games are on sale at Stadium Southland or from Ticket Direct.
The capacity for the opening game against the Firebirds will be below its full complement of just over 4000 seats due to some corporate hosting.
Steel officials estimate there will be about 3500 seats available.
- The Southland Times