Steel lose as heart condition hinders import
Southern Steel are managing a heart condition which limited star goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid to two quarters in last night's 60-44 loss to the Queensland Firebirds.
The Jamaican international, who smashed most of the trans-Tasman league's shooting records last season and was named its most valuable player in her rookie season, has had the condition since suffering rheumatic fever as a child, but it flared up during Jamaica's tour of England at the end of last year.
She's been unable to train with the Southern Steel fully since arriving in Invercargill earlier this year and Steel coach Janine Southby opted to limit her game time, giving Te Paea Selby-Rickit the goal shoot bib.
Southby said Fowler-Reid's energy levels were affected by the condition.
"We are trying to manage her as best we can and we are being led by medical experts on that. We've got a plan in place and I'm hoping over the next couple of weeks she'll be back to full fitness," Southby said.
"She hasn't been able to train with us, it's tough, but in saying that it gave Te Paea a chance. There were a couple of things but generally I thought she stood up against for the first time against an Australian keeper."
Fowler-Reid's illness and a heavy loss at the hands of last year's beaten finalist on the opening night of top-level competition at the ILT Stadium overshadowed an outstanding performance at goal keep by Phoenix Karaka.
The new Silver Fern was able to harry and hound Romelda Aiken, despite giving up 10cm to the lanky Jamaican.
It was to no avail, however, as a misfiring Steel midcourt struggled to make the most of the ball they were able to win from the Firebirds in front of a 2700-strong crowd.
In patches the Steel looked like a competitive outfit, aggressive and accurate, with plenty of direction.
But then there was a Steel team which served up stepping calls and sloppy handling to help the Firebirds to a seven goal run at the end of the first quarter.
By halftime the result was all but sealed with Queensland leading by 10 goals.
The introduction of Fowler-Reid after the break helped to give the Steel some surety at the attacking end with skipper Jodi Brown suffering an off night with her shooting.
Steel looked a team which hadn't trained together fully before this week, which is exactly what they were.
"We are getting enough ball on defence, which was good, but we just aren't using it and that was disappointing," Southby said.
"There's definitely some promising signs, but it's frustrating throwing the ball away. It's not good enough at this level and it's something we have to fix up very quickly."
There was enough to offer hope that they can still at least contend for a semifinal place, but there's a lot of hard work to be done in the meantime and there's the nagging worry of just how much of a part Fowler-Reid will be able to play.
Meanwhile, a new look Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic team smashed the Tactix 70-46 in Christchurch, the Swifts edged out the West Coast Fever at home 54-41 and the Vixens made short work of the Mystics in Melbourne, winning 58-34.
The Central Pulse get an ideal chance to test their title-winning aspirations against defending champions the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Wellington tonight.
Quarter scores (Firebirds first): 15-11, 29-19, 48-33, 60-44.
Steel: Te Paea Selby Rickit 13/16 81%, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 20/22 91%, Jodi Brown 11/17 65%.
Firebirds: Romelda Aiken 34/43 79%, Amy Wild 26/32 81%
The Southland Times