Netball South has revealed its team to compete in the inaugural New Zealand Netball League. 

Coach Lauren Piebenga was impressed by the calibre of players from throughout the region which attended trials at the weekend. 

“The way they pushed themselves and each other shows the dedication and commitment they have for the team and this programme and that really bodes well,” she said. 

“It’s exciting to now be able to put the pen down and put the shoes on. I’m really looking forward to getting this campaign underway.” 

Former Southern Sting defender Sarah Hamilton injects netball wisdom into a squad brimming with dynamic young talent. 

“Sarah brings a lot of experience and maturity to the team which is something we certainly value in this environment,” Piebenga said. 

“In contrast, we also had a number of secondary school player’s trialling and they really stood up and put pressure on those more senior which was great to see.”  

Hamilton is joined in the defensive ranks by Sam Hollows and Dani Gray, with sisters Renaye and Zoey Flockton, Lucy Heenan and Rachel Horrocks selected as midcourters. 

NZ under-21 squad member Sophie Erwood has earned a place in the shooting end, alongside Jennifer O’Connell, Bridget Thayer and Verdon College teenager Aliyah Dunn. 

In addition, four Steel players – Stacey Peeters, Brooke Leaver, Jamie Hume and Abby Erwood – are eligible to bolster the national league team when their ANZ Championship commitments allow. 

“Until now there has been a hole in the structure of Netball New Zealand’s competitions and over the years we’ve let players fall through the cracks in terms of valuable court time and exposure. Hopefully this league will help fill that void,” Piebenga said.  

Netball New Zealand’s new initiative will run in conjunction with the elite ANZ Championship and enables the country’s best young stars to experience the intensity of high performance sport. 

The competition features one team from each of the country’s five zones – South, Mainland, Central, Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Northern. In a favourable draw, the South team has been awarded six of its eight round robin games on home turf, with four in Invercargill and two in Dunedin as encore games to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel. 

Netball South chief executive Lana Winders said the result was “a showcase of netball in our own backyard”. 

“It’s fantastic for our loyal supporters who will be able to witness both of our elite teams in action just by purchasing a Steel ticket,” Winders said. 

“It’s the best of both worlds – the thills of the international sporting arena in which the Steel competes together with an exciting new national competition featuring our best home-grown future Steel players from right here in the deep south,” she said.