Tone-Fitzpatrick goes south, links with Southby
The chance to link up with New Zealand under-21 coach Janine Southby and push for a trans-Tasman netball league starting berth was too good an opportunity to turn down for new Southern Steel recruit Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick.
Tone-Fitzpatrick, 20, has spent the past two seasons with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, after being a member of the Northern Mystics squad in 2010.
She is expected to be officially announced as a Southern Steel player today.
The 1.88m Tone-Fitzpatrick, who can cover both defensive circle positions, had limited court-time in 2012, with the title-winning Magic side, behind Silver Fern stars Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin
Tone-Fitzpatrick was restricted to just two hours and 25 minutes of netball during this year's competition, just 15 per cent of the Magic's campaign, and was used only once for a full game.
The promising youngster, who played her lone test for the Silver Ferns during last year's home series against England, said she had loved her two years in the Magic environment, but needed to go where she could gain greater court time.
Next year will be a pivotal season for the Auckland resident, as she seeks to gain a place in the New Zealand under-21 team for the World Youth Championships in Scotland, next August.
Tone-Fitzpatrick is good friends with Steel young-guns Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Storm Purvis, and said she was excited about working with head coach Southby, who is also in charge of the national under-21 team.
The Steel are one of the youngest sides in the trans-Tasman netball league and Tone-Fitzpatrick believed there was strong potential to grow as a team over the next few years.
"I'm pretty excited. I can't wait to meet the team and go from there," she said yesterday.
"I have a good relationship with [Southby]. The youth being drawn there and seeing the development over the last year was a big draw."
The addition of Tone-Fitzpatrick goes a long way to addressing the Steel's deficiency in the goal defence position.
Tone-Fitzpatrick, whose uncles are former All Blacks, Tana Umaga and Olo Brown, said it was a difficult decision to leave the Magic, but she needed to do what was in the best interests of her career.
"It was definitely tough, because I love the Magic a lot. I've really enjoyed my time at the Magic. They're like a family, so it's been really hard."
Tone-Fitzpatrick held no bitterness towards the Magic for her lack of game-time last season. Working with two of the best defenders in world netball on a daily basis had been extremely beneficial for her game, and really opened her eyes, about how hard she needed to work.
"It was a massive learning curve. I still learned a lot at trainings from Casey and Leana. It's always tough [sitting on the bench]. It is what it is. We won [the title], so I can't complain."
Tone-Fitzpatrick has struggled with nutrition and conditioning at times in the past, and admitted that was an area she needed to sharpen up on, ahead of the Steel's 2013 campaign.
"Definitely those two. It's down to self responsibility," she said.
She had yet to decide where she would be based next year, but was leaning towards Dunedin, which would enable her to continue her arts and law studies at the University of Otago.
The Southland Times