Fowler keeping options open for 2014 season

STANDING OUT: Jhaniele Fowler has starred for the Steel this season.
STANDING OUT: Jhaniele Fowler has starred for the Steel this season.

She’s the talk of the trans-Tasman netball competition and Jhaniele Fowler’s thoughts have started to drift towards what she’ll be doing next season.

The Southern Steel import, who is set to smash every shooting record in the competition, is only contracted to the Invercargill-based franchise for this season.

The Steel get first dibs at re-signing the 1.98m Jamaican international, with other franchises not allowed to open discussions with her until a fortnight after the grand final.

Despite that, Steel officials have held initial talks with their prize shooter in the last week or so and are well down the track of putting together what they hope will be a competitive offer.

‘‘I’ve been thinking about [my future], but there’s nothing definite as yet,’’ Fowler, who will take into account the best options for her partner and young child, said yesterday.

If the Steel do manage to qualify for this year’s playoffs, it would mark an extraodinary single season turnaround.

A large amount of credit would fall on the wide wingspan of Fowler, but some must also go to those behind the scenes who took something of a gamble enticing her to Invercargill.

The Adelaide Thunderbirds had hoped to sign her last year, but struck problems around the eligibility of Carla Borrego.

The Steel were initially looking to replace defender Demelza McCloud, but some within the organisation began pushing hard for Fowler to be looked at when the Thunderbirds deal fell through.

Jamaican shooters, notably Borrego and Romelda Aiken, have been hugely successful in the trans-Tasman competition, but there were no guarantees the chemistry would work bringing someone from the Caribbean to the climactically challenging environs of an Invercargill winter.

Fowler said she could see herself turning out for the Steel again next season, but she hasn’t ruled out waiting to see what her value would be on the open market.

‘‘It’s a possibility that I might look at what else is around, it’s a possibility,’’ she said.

For those thinking that Fowler has made the transition into the league look ridiculously easy, the player herself insists that it isn’t so.

‘‘It’s not, it's not easy, it’s hard work,’’ Fowler, who has developed her fitness, positioning and passing, said.

For all that, she was on top of her game against the international pairing of Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin on Saturday, emerging from the win over the Magic with another impressive return and her reputation enhanced.

‘‘I was pretty pleased. I went in expecting it to be very hard, so I just know I had to go hard myself.’’

There will be another examination in Melbourne on Monday night when she lines up against Vixens circle defenders Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor.

‘‘It’s going to be a big challenge for us because the Vixens are coming off a loss, they won’t be complacent,’’ Fowler said.

‘‘Even though I have played against Geva quite a few times, I haven’t played against the combination of her and Chatfield. It may be different, but I still know what I have to do and I still have faith in myself that I can pull through for my team.’’

The Southland Times