ASCOT Park Hotel Southern Steel captain Wendy Frew is unwavering in her belief the team have what it takes to make an impact in the ANZ Championship this season.
Frew admits finishing the 2014 season in fifth and being edged out of the Finals Series by one spot was gutting for the team and they’re determined not to make the same mistakes this season.
With the league introducing a new Conference system for New Zealand and Australian teams in 2015, three teams per country will have the opportunity to make the Finals Series.
“I think for us last year losing four on the trot really cost us so the first few games are certainly ‘must wins’ for us,” Frew said.
“You want to get out there and get a bit of confidence behind the team and perform well so it puts you in good stead for the rest of the season.
“The girls have been training hard and really focused and there’s lots of excitement around the first game this weekend.”
Frew is taking the captaincy in her stride after the departure of long-term captain Jodi Brown to the Mojo Pulse in the off-season.
“I’ve been vice-captain and co-captain before so it’s nice to get the captaincy on my own,” Frew admitted.
“For me this year it’s about moulding the team. There are a few new faces and we’ve obviously lost the experience of Jodi, so I’m just trying to do my own job on court and lead well and then hopefully the girls will step up from there and play well.”
The Steel have produced mixed results over the pre-season. After encouraging results at the Pre-Season Summer Shootout in Sydney earlier this month - highlighted by the Steel being the only New Zealand team to beat an Australian side - the Steel have failed to back up that form.
Last weekend they suffered a heavy 19-goal loss to the Pulse and a narrow defeat against the Mainland Tactix.
Steel coach Janine Southby is not too phased by the results as she continues to settle on a starting seven.
“We are growing with each game and that’s what I asked of them but I think we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Southby said.
“I’m really pleased with the grit and determination we’ve showed.”
As well as playing each New Zealand team twice, both home-and-away in the regular season, the Steel will make three trips across the Tasman with matches against the West Coast Fever (Perth), Melbourne Vixens and Mission Queensland Firebirds (Brisbane).
Southby says beating the Australian teams in their home patch is all about self-belief.
“The team need to believe in themselves and I think that when we do come to Australia, it’s about having that belief and know it’s going to be tough, fast, physical and you’ve actually just got to do it,” she said.
“What we’ve been seeing in trainings we’re starting to see out on the court. The team has been put under pressure and exposed a little bit more.”
Southby and Steel management have recruited and retained some young exciting talent, including the core of the New Zealand team which won the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow.
Frew says the team is gelling well.
“There’s a great group of girls coming up through the ranks and they’re showing a lot of good skills out there and now it’s about gaining some more experience,” Frew said.
“They’re certainly prepared to do the hard yards to gain that experience so they’re an exciting young bunch and there’s certainly lots of talent.”
The Steel start their campaign against the Swifts on Sunday, March 1 at ILT Stadium Invercargill from 7.10pm, local time. Watch all the action live on Sky Sport and FOX SPORTS 1.