The Southern Steel are a New Zealand netball team based in Invercargill that compete in the ANZ Premiership. The franchise was formed as an amalgamation of two teams from the National Bank Cup: the Dunedin-based Otago Rebels and the Invercargill-based Southern Sting. After the National Bank Cup was retired in 2007, the newly formed Steel joined four other New Zealand franchises in the new ANZ Championship, representing the New Zealand regions of Otago and Southland. The ANZ Championship ran from 2008 to 2016, after which the Steel joined five other New Zealand teams in the new ANZ Premiership.
|Based in||Invercargill, New Zealand|
|Regions||Southland region |
|Main venue||Stadium Southland|
|Main sponsor||Ascot Park Hotel|
|Team colours||Steel Blue, Pink & Black|
|Head coach||Reinga Bloxham|
|Asst coach||Lauren Piebenga|
|Titles won||Minor Premiership (2016)|
|Best finish||Semi-finalists (2016, 2010, 2009)|
In its first five years, the team colours changed three times. In 2016 the team kit was primarily cyan blue, with black and pink. The Steel play most of their home games at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill and the Edgar Centre in Dunedin. In 2018 the team are coached by Reinga Bloxham, with Lauren Piebenga as assistant coach. Veteran midcourter Wendy Frew continues as team captain.
The Southern Steel were formed as an amalgamation of two teams from the previous National Bank Cup: the Otago Rebels and the Southern Sting. The National Bank Cup played its final season in 2007, after which it was announced that a new trans-Tasman netball competition would replace it. Five New Zealand teams were approved for the new competition – three from the North Island, two from the South Island – in early May 2007, including one representing Southland and Otago. Southern TeamCo was set up to develop the new Southland-Otago franchise. Robyn Broughton, coach of the Southern Sting that dominated the National Bank Cup, was appointed as head coach for the new team early in the development stage. Donna Wilkins was signed as assistant coach in December that year.
Suggestions were invited from the public for a name for the new franchise, but the most popular ideas – including 'Ice', 'Roar', 'Fusion' and 'Seanix' – were ruled out for various reasons. A brand-specialist company based in Christchurch was consulted, who came up with the name 'Steel'. This name was unanimously agreed upon by the Southern TeamCo board and announced in November 2007, along with the franchise's new logo.
After prolonged negotiations between the New Zealand Players Association and Trans Tasman Netball Ltd, New Zealand franchises were allowed to begin recruiting players in late December 2007; this included the allowance of one import player. The team for the 2008 ANZ Championship season, comprising twelve players, was confirmed and announced on 26 January 2008. The team contained four Silver Ferns (Debbie White, Liana Leota, Katrina Grant, Daneka Wipiiti), two experienced former internationals (Megan Dehn and Jenny-May Coffin), two New Zealand A squad members (Erika Burgess, Jessica Tuki) and three New Zealand U21 team members (Te Huinga Reo Selby-Ricket, Wendy Frew, Julianna Naoupou); Megan Hutton was previously an overall MVP in the English Netball Superleague. Donna Wilkins, who previously played for the Southern Sting, signed as an assistant coach rather than as a player. Previous Silver Ferns captain Adine Wilson was unavailable for selection, but announced her intention to return to competitive netball and the Steel for 2009. Tania Dalton was drafted onto the Steel bench during the season, covering injuries.
The Southern Steel made a successful start to the ANZ Championship, making the final series twice in the first three seasons, in 2009 and 2010. The side was led by co-captais Jenny-May Coffin and Megan Hutton in 2008, Adine Wilson took over in 2009, before later retiring, and was replaced by Megan Dehn in 2010. Always a tough side to beat at home, the Steel boased one of the best home records throughout the early seasons of the trans-Tasman competition, upsetting several tough rivals throughout the three seasons. The Steel used 22 players from 2008 to 2010, with 12 boasting experience at international level. Players to don the colours of the Steel through this time period included Donna Wilkins, Adine Wilson, Leana de Bruin, Sheryl Scanlan, Megan Dehn and Wendy Frew. Liana Leota was the first player to reach 40 games for the Steel in three seasons, playing almost every quarter in at WA. Successful New Zealand coach Robyn Broughton coached the franchise, leading the team a winning percentage of around 70% in the tough ANZ Championship.
But the franchise wasn't without a touch of controversy, with longtime southern netballer Donna Wilkins falling out with the franchise after the 2009 season. Wilkins blamed Steel management for a lack in support after giving birth to her first child prior to the 2009 season. She would later stand down from the game, before returning in 2011 to play for the Canterbury Tactix.
The Invercargill Licensing Trust continued to proudly sponsor the Steel throughout this period, via their flagship hotel Ascot Park. The Trust, sponsors of netball in Southland since the early 1990s, pumped in a six figure fee to the franchise annually, giving them an edge over rival franchises financially.
Recruitment mode started early for the Invercargill-based Southern Steel franchise. The team started by confirming coach Robyn Broughton would return for another season. The franchise then moved onto re-signing its squad. The Steel confirmed that current or former internationals shooter Daneka Wipiiti, mid courters Liana Leota, Wendy Frew and defenders Sheryl Scanlan, Erika Burgess and Leana de Bruin would be back for 2011, along with up and comers Hayley Saunders and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit. The franchise then moved into signing four more names to its team. Silver Ferns star Paula Griffin and Australian international Natasha Chokljat were poached from the Central Pulse and Melbourne Vixens respectively and would be the franchises two marquee signings. Young gun shooters Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Sophia Fenwick were also included after impressing at National Provincial level.
Four players would be missing from the 2010 squad. Promising shooters Julianna Naoupu and Jade Topia left the franchise, Naoupu heading to the Magic and Topia to the Pulse in a bid for more court time. Midcourter Emma Moynihan missed her spot in the team for 2011, while captain Megan Dehn was surplus to requirements at the franchise after three seasons. Failing to gain citizenship after the team signed fellow Australian Natasha Chokljat, Dehn said goodbye to the Invercargill-based team before linking with the Northern Mystics in what is expected to be her last ANZ Championship season. In late December, it was confirmed midcourters Wendy Frew and Liana Leota would take over the reins as co-captains.
A freak snow storm in September, in which the roof fell in at the Steel's main stadium means the team will play their four planned matches in Invercargill at the ILT Velodrome, attached to Stadium Southland. A temporary facility will be set up for 2011 season. With reduced capacity, 4300 down to 2800, fans were required to line-up to book season tickets for the new ANZ Championship season. The Steel's home is expected to be re-built and ready for the 2012 season. Locals were asked what changes could be made, and one was increased capacity from around 4400 up to 5000. The stadium boasted a large capacity when it was first built in 2000, but increased popularity for the Steel and fellow basketball franchise the Southland Sharks now means a larger seating number would be ideal for the future. The Steel had an unfortunate start to the new ANZ Championship season. Injuries to key players such as Daneka Wipiiti, Natasha Chokljat and Sheryl Scanlan meant the Steel were unable to hit their straps from the start. The Invercargill franchise lost its opening two games to the Northern Mystics and Waikato/BOP Magic, but defeated the Central Pulse in Wellington in round three 45–43. The side then suffered another loss, this time to the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane before wins at home against the Central Pulse once again and the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Star import Natasha Chokljat returned for these two home matches, adding speed to the team's midcourt. The Steel later lost to the Canterbury Tactix in Christchurch, before another defeat to the Melbourne Vixens 42–33. The Steel matched up against the Canterbury Tactix a week later, this time winning 49-40. Paula Griffin was in great form shooting 34/39 from goal shoot. Coach Robyn Broughton was forced to move Silver Fern Daneka Wipiiti to goal attack, in order to fix the team's attacking problems. The Steel lost its final three matches at home, ending their worst ANZ Championship season. Going down the Waikato/BOP Magic once again 38–33, before defeats at the hands of the Swifts and Mystics.
A week later, Steel CEO Julie Paterson confirmed the franchise would advertise the head coaching position, held by Robyn Broughton for the previous 14 seasons. She decided against re-applying, and was replaced on 20 May by New Zealand under 21 coach Janine Southby and former Australian international, former Southern Sting shooter and Southland coach Natalie Avellino, the pair taking over as co-coaches, and ending a 14-year Robyn Broughton tenure.
After the departure of longtime coach Robyn Broughton, the Steel confirmed her replacements in Natalie Avellino and Janine Southby. The franchise started their recruitment for 2012, with Silver Fern shooter Jodi Brown unveiled as the first signing. Days later the Steel confirmed local talents Wendy Frew and Hayley Saunders would also be returning.
ANZ Championship MVP Leana de Bruin confirmed she wouldn't return to Invercargill in 2012 – with the 32 year-old linking with the Waikato/BOP Magic for next season – opting to be closer to her family. The franchise later lost young guns Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Paula Griffin to the Central Pulse. Silver Fern midcourter Liana Leota was the fourth player to signal her departure, with the co-captain confirming she is heading to the UK, with rugby playing husband Johnny Leota. Australian import Natasha Chokljat and Silver Ferns shooter Daneka Wipiiti also signalled their departure from the Steel after the 2011 campaign.
The franchise replaced its list of outgoing players with a mix of local talent and experience. Silver Fern Jodi Brown was unveiled as the new captain, and joined Sheryl Scanlan and Donna Wilkins as the veterans in the squad. The Steel re-signed national under 21 shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit and added locals Louise Thayer and Ashleigh Smith to the squad. New South Wales Swifts midcourter Courtney Tairi joined the franchise, along with fellow Australian Demelza McCloud, a former Otago Rebels defender.
The Steel kicked off its 2012 campaign against the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic at home in Invercargill. The Steel welcomed the return of Donna Wilkins, twelve weeks back from giving birth to her third child Mia Grace. She led the Steel to 49-47 victory in a standout performance.
But the Steel struggled from then forward, losing its second match to the new look Central Pulse in Napier 47–42. The Steel suffered a further ten defeats, including record losses to the Mystics 60-49 in Auckland, and at home against the Melbourne Vixens in the final week of round robin play 56–38.
The Steel opted to revert to a traditional coaching structure for the 2013 season, with Southby taking the reins as head coach, and Avellino acting as her assistant.
The franchise re-signed the core group of its 2012 squad including New Zealand squad members Jodi Brown, Shannon Francois and Australian born Courtney Tairi. Former Silver Fern Wendy Frew also returned after the birth of her first child, and was later announced as vice-captain.
The Steel lost the services of two former internationals Donna Wilkins who opted to link up with former coach Robyn Broughton at the Central Pulse, while defender Demelza McCloud returned to Australia with the Queensland Firebirds. The Steel off set these deflections with the signing of 198 cm Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler. The shooter joins the league for the 2013 season as the tallest player, eclipsing compatriot Romelda Aiken by two cm.
The Steel opened its 2013 campaign with a 68–59 loss to the Firebirds in Brisbane, with Fowler making her ANZ Championship debut. The club next meet the bottom placed Canterbury Tactix, winning the match 75-56. The match resulted in Jhaniele Fowler recording 65 goals in the match. The following week saw the Steel at home for the first time in 2013, but the side was defeated 60-54 against the Australian-based Adelaide Thunderbirds. In round four; the Steel were again defeated this time by the Central Pulse at Arena Manawatu in Palmerston North.
|2018 Southern Steel roster|
Manager: Dayna Kaio
|Player profiles: Team website||Last updated: 16 June 2018|
The Steel currently play the majority of their home matches at the ILT Velodrome, adjacent to Stadium Southland which was the club's former home until the roof collapsed in September 2010 after a freak snow storm.
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- "Southern Steel: meet your team". The Southland Times. 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
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