Southern Steel move fast to strengthen squad

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2013
Jhaniele Fowler
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
SHOOTING STAR: Super shooter Jhaniele Fowler is the only signing so far for the Steel's 2014 squad.

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Southern Steel's focus remains on signing a core of their 2013 squad as rumour and speculation surround the impending opening of the player market.

Forty-eight hours after the grand final in Adelaide next Sunday, franchises are allowed to approach players from opposition teams.

Until then the Steel have their own players to themselves, an advantage they've already used to good effect by re-signing Jhaniele Fowler for two years, before she returned to Jamaica last week. "We are in continuing negotiations," Steel chief executive Sue Clarke said.

"We are progressing quietly down that track."

The deadline for finalising a 2014 roster has been brought forward at least a month, to September 30, because of next year's Commonwealth Games.

The period between now and then is complicated, because it includes Silver Ferns' commitments, the New Zealand under-21 team's buildup for their world championship, and the new national under-23 tournament.

No players involved with those teams can be approached during any of those events.

Clarke confirmed that once the bulk of this year's team were confirmed, the franchise would be looking at other options. "As I've said earlier, we probably need an experienced defender. We'll be lining that up in the next couple of weeks." Experienced defenders aren't readily available.

Casey Kopua looms as a tasty option, and she has been linked to moves ranging from the Mystics to the Tactix to nowhere - along with her fellow Magic big three, Laura Langman and Irene van Dyk.

Meanwhile, Fowler has predictably been included amongst six finalists for the trans-Tasman league's Most Valuable Player award. Fowler smashed the season scoring record with 666 goals at 94 per cent for the Steel, also breaking the single game record during the second-round win over the Tactix.

She joins fellow Jamaican shooters Romelda Aiken (Firebirds) and Carla Borrego (Thunderbirds) amongst the nominees, along with midcourters Madison Browne (Vixens) and Langman (Magic), and Firebirds goal attack Natalie Medhurst.

The winner will be announced next week.

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- The Southland Times

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