Teams need to 'grow' new defenders - Avellino

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 01/05/2014
Storm Purvis
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
YOUNG DEFENDER: Getting more out of young players like Storm Purvis instead of recruiting a top-line defender is probably the more likely option for the Southern Steel according to former Australian international Natalie Avellino.

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Natalie Avellino doesn't think it is as simple as the Southern Steel recruiting a frontline defender to help turn the Invercargill-based trans-Tasman franchise into a playoff team next year.

With four games to play the Steel are already out of playoff contention in 2014 and now the questions are already being asked as to what needs to be done for a better result in 2015.

The former Australia international was part of the Steel coaching setup before being axed last year.

While saying she hasn't intensely followed the trans-Tasman competition this year, she had kept an eye on how Steel were tracking.

There have been calls for Steel to go in the hunt for a quality defender but Avellino is not sure it would be as simple as that.

"They are not sitting where they would like to be so obviously something needs to be done because it hasn't worked this year. But are there enough defenders out there? There probably aren't," she said.

"The Tactix would be looking for a defender as well and there has got to be players out there that are available and happy to change team and that are better that what you've got."

Avellino suggested the best approach would probably be to give players within the current squad more opportunities and look for them to step up to the mark.

"Give them more opportunities and court time to improve, because there is certainly the potential there with those girls, that's for sure."

At the attacking end of the Steel court, Avellino conceded that Jhaniele Fowler-Reid was a star in the game but she wondered whether Steel's "bomb" into her in the circle had become to obvious for opposition teams.

"You've got to have both shooters shooting and I think we can see that now. I think it is quite evident in most teams that share the load," Avellino said.

"However, when you've got a target like Jhaniele, it's quite hard to share the load. She's still been in great form you can't take anything away from her she's been outstanding and they're lucky they've got her. Maybe if Jodi [Brown] could put up a few more shots, it would be a bonus for them and it would put some doubt in the defenders' minds.

"But they've got a game plan they want to play to, I'm not sure what that it is, but it seems pretty obvious when you watch it other teams and players are working out what they can do to combat that and a lot of games it is working for them."

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Avellino tips the Melbourne Vixens to win the competition and suggests the Central Pulse could be New Zealand's best chance to push for the overall title. However, she said the success story in the competition at the moment as far as New Zealand team's go is Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic.

"They have surprised everybody and I think it's a matter of no expectations. You go in there and do what you've got to do. I often say that in some teams there's too many princesses but I think in the Magic they've just got to work damn hard. There are some big names but it's the ones around them that are really stepping up."

- The Southland Times

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