An awkward buildup hopefully won't get in the way of Southern Steel making a positive start to their trans-Tasman campaign in the rebuilt ILT Stadium tomorrow night.
Injuries and unavailability have meant the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team had their full squad together for the first time this week – not ideal when your opening game is against last year's beaten finalists.
Steel coach Janine Southby said the impact of a disrupted buildup couldn't be ignored.
"It [has an effect] just in terms of ironing those little things out. The girls have all played a lot of netball and we have been together for a year so my expectation is that we can keep building on where they were last year."
Tomorrow night's opponent, the Queensland Firebirds, are the only team in the competition yet to lose in Invercargill.
Despite the departure of Natalie Medhurst and Chelsea Pitman to the Fever, the Firebirds remain a classy outfit, Southby said.
"I think they'll be as competitive as they always are. What tends to happen in the Australian system is that there always seems to be depth. I'm under no illusions how tough it's going to be [tomorrow] night, both physically and mentally."
The Steel are keen to develop a fortress-like mentality in their new stadium, but they have a tough Invercargill draw, including the Firebirds, a rejuvenated Mystics team, Pulse, Magic and Vixens.
Will we see a return of the much-vaunted Stadium Southland crowd and the ability it had to help sway results the way of the home team?
Meanwhile, the Steel has launched its own smartphone app.
Now available to download free for both iPhone and android, the Steel Netball app is the first to be launched by a trans-Tasman netball franchise.
Steel corporate and communications manager Kate Buchanan said it would add a new dimension to the team's interaction with fans.
"Along with player profiles and event information, we are developing a range of features including a social wall for both players and fans to write on, exclusive offers from our family of sponsors and various competitions. It's a fantastic platform to link all facets of our franchise together.
Event manager Sonya Fleming said tomorrow's opening game would reflect the Steel's commitment to providing an event both on and off the court.
Fans will be able to capture their fun in the #Envious photobooth courtside, with the craziest images to be featured on the Monsta Vision screen during the game. The more adventurous can test their rock-climbing skills on the Clip n Climb, while New Zealand's Got Talent finalist Jenny Mitchell, of Gore, will be performing.
"We've even got the circus getting in on the act with the visiting Zirka Circus adding a unique flavour to our halftime show," Fleming said.
- The Southland Times