Otago shooter Olivia Bates will travel to Melbourne with the Southern Steel this weekend as cover for Jodi Brown and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
Steel head coach Janine Southby said Bates would provide handy backup at the trans-Tasman pre-season tournament.
"From our perspective, we've got two players in a similar area of court carrying niggling injuries and, while it's important to get game time, it can't be at the expense of pushing players into further injury," she said.
"Olivia provides experience at goal attack and we are also keen to work with the young players in our region who have been coming to training with us and making an effort for us. We have to look after our local players and provide these opportunities because they won't know what it's like at this level unless they have experienced it."
Brown is recovering from a minor calf injury while Selby-Rickit received a knock to the leg during the Steel's pre-season clash with the Tactix in Timaru on Saturday.
All 10 ANZ Championship franchises will gather in Melbourne for the official pre-season event, dubbed the "Summer Shootout", which provides valuable match play.
"We're looking to really gel smoother connections on court. Results are good to have but the biggest thing for us is our processes at the moment and that will be our focus," Southby said.
Bates, 22, was eager to embrace the opportunity to compete in the sport's top echelon.
"It's going to be awesome to be in that environment alongside those top athletes. I'm just keen to absorb any knowledge I can. I've played with a few of them before so there are some familiar faces but obviously not at that level," she said.
"I did not expect this at all so it's still a bit of a shock to be honest but I am really excited. It would be awesome to just to get on court for two minutes to experience that intensity."
Bates was ruled out of Otago's successful NPC title defence in October after fracturing her ankle in the opening few minutes of the tournament. Following a successful recovery over summer, she performed strongly for the Steel development team against its Tactix counterpart in Timaru at the weekend.
Netball South high performance manager Jo Morrison was thrilled to see Bates' dedication rewarded.
"Olivia is testament the elite ranks can be achieved by following the player pathways we have in place for our local netballers. It's fantastic to see her given this chance to shine," she said.
The Steel will host last year's beaten grand finalists the Queensland Firebirds in the opening clash at ILT Stadium in Invercargill on Sunday, March 2.
- The Southland Times
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