Steel plan to lure players with more court time

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2012
Kayla Cullen
Michael Bradley/Fairfax NZ
STAR ON THE RISE: Kayla Cullen of the Northern Mystics.

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Natalie Avellino believes Southern Steel could be an appealing destination for players wanting more court time in 2013.

Trans-Tasman netball league franchises can speak with players from rival teams from next Monday.

Avellino said the Steel had drawn up a list of players they hoped to lure south.

The bulk of this year's Steel side is expected to return next season.

However, there are areas of the court they desperately need to strengthen.

The Steel's most glaring weakness is goal defence where they would love to land a quality player with height and mobility who can hunt for intercepts.

The players on the top of the Steel wishlist are likely to include rising Silver Ferns star Kayla Cullen, her Northern Mystics team-mate, Jess Moulds, and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick.

Avellino and her Steel co-coach, Janine Southby, were not afraid to give young players court time this season.

ANZ Championship rookies Storm Purvis and Shannon Francois made their most of their opportunities, and won starting berths for the Steel.

Avellino said the Steel franchise was a desirable one for players who wanted more court time and were pushing for selection in the Silver Ferns, and New Zealand's under-21 team for next year's Youth World Championship.

"A lot of players look at what opportunities are available in the Silver Ferns and under-21s and those players will want to be playing," she said.

"Janine and I have proved we're happy to give players opportunities and get them out there on court."

Some North Island-based players have been reluctant to move away from their families and shift to the bottom of the South Island.

Avellino said players needed to do what was in the best interest of their careers and was optimistic they could snap up some high-calibre netballers.

"Some players might have to make some hard decisions over the next couple of weeks about where they need to go," she said.

"At the end of the day, it's only for six months. There's some good opportunities out there."

Avellino hoped the Steel would be able to finalise the nucleus of their squad quickly.

She said the priority was to re-sign the players they wanted from this year's team and then work out what positions they needed to bolster.

The Steel appear to be well-covered in the midcourt with Courtney Tairi, Francois and Hayley Saunders all exciting, young players who deserve to be retained.

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Southland's Wendy Frew has expressed an interest in returning next year after missing this season because of pregnancy.

Otago youngster Gina Crampton, who was named as a Silver Ferns triallist yesterday, could be a contender for a full contract.

Former Silver Ferns Donna Wilkins and Jodi Brown formed a strong partnership in the Steel shooting circle this season and would only benefit from another campaign together.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit is one of the most promising young goal shoots in the country and seems another certainty to return.

"If we keep the core players and add some strength with a strong goal defence, we would expect results next year," Avellino said.

"Fingers crossed, we can get a high-quality goal defence," she said.

- The Southland Times

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