Southern Steel defender Phoenix Karaka hopes to impose herself a bit more during this year's trans-Tasman competition.
The 1.84-metre stopper was one of the rising stars of last year's competition, impressing off the bench for the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel, playing in the victorious New Zealand under-21 team at the World Youth Cup and earning herself a place on the Silver Ferns' end of season tour.
She was initially selected as a training partner for the European tour, but ongoing concerns over Casey Kopua's ankle injury meant she was promoted into the main squad, playing in exhibition games against Scotland and England A and making her test debut off the bench in a 17-goal win over England.
"It was probably the best experience I've had so far, bar the under-21s tour. Being one of the training partners was a big step for me, but being part of the team was amazing," she said.
"It was quite nerve-wracking, just being at a different level and with the top New Zealand players. I was a bit shy, I'm a pretty shy person, so I just tried to find my place in the team and everyone was helpful and supportive of me. They made it really easy to fit in."
Self-confidence is something that Karaka is keen to work on this season.
She's eager to take more risks on the court, committing 100 per cent when going for the ball.
If she gets another chance with the Silver Ferns she knows she will be able to better handle the intensity they play and train at.
The Steel travelled to Melbourne yesterday ahead of the Summer Shootout, a pre-season tournament involving all 10 trans-Tasman teams.
Jodi Brown (calf) and Te Paea Selby-Rickit (thigh) have travelled with the team despite injury concerns, with Otago shooter Olivia Bates remaining with the squad as cover.
The Steel are scheduled to play a closed-session game tonight before the tournament proper tomorrow.
- The Southland Times