Burdon: Finch's departure huge blow to Steel

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014
Phillipa Finch
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
WORKHORSE: Departing Steel netballer Phillipa Finch.

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OPINION: The loss of Phillipa Finch leaves a significant hole in the Southern Steel's plans for next season.

As with all underrated players, we probably won't realise Finch's full value in the Steel midcourt until she's not there.

Finch, who has opted not to sign for next season to be closer to her Christchurch-based family, was solid and feisty and hated losing - all aspects that can't really be coached, but that coaches love in players.

The focus now shifts to who will wear the centre bib in 2015.

The Steel were already well represented with midcourters, with five players in their 12-strong squad, leaving space for only three shooters in the mix.

Having another shooter wouldn't have helped the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team this season, although there were concerns when Jhaniele Fowler-Reid went down in the second game against the Tactix.

Another injury could have seen back-up shooter Shannon Francois moving from the midcourt to test her skills under the hoop.

The Steel do have two good young midcourters in Stacey Peeters and Gina Crampton, both New Zealand under-21 players, but it would be a brave move to begin next season relying on either of them as a starting player.

With Fowler-Reid locked in as next year's overseas import, coach Janine Southby - provided she herself returns for next season - will have to look within New Zealand for Finch's replacement.

Laura Langman would be at the top of any New Zealand franchise's shopping list when it comes to midcourters, but after a season of commuting from Hamilton to Auckland to play for the Mystics it would be some sort of coup to get her to Invercargill.

It would be no great surprise if the struggling Tactix tried to attain Finch for next season, which could make for a potential player swap with the pocket rocket Keshia Grant.

Grant has already played for the Magic, Mystics and Tactix and might not be averse to move from the perennial wooden spooners to a team which will target the playoffs as a minimum requirement next season.

Centre is the axis that any netball team revolves around, it is netball's first-five, it's quarterback.

With a weapon like Fowler-Reid at the team's disposal, the ability of the centre to control the centre third is vital for the Steel.

The options aren't huge, but the outcome is hugely important.

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