Southern Steel confirm new player ahead of season opener
Her elevation into the elite ranks of the ANZ Premiership may have come as a surprise, but Courtney Elliott is determined to make an impact.
Just a few days ago, the Waikato defender was preparing to compete in the Beko Netball League until a phone call from Steel coach Reinga Bloxham changed the direction of her netball career.
Elliott has been thrust into the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel team as a replacement for Jamaican international Malysha Kelly, who ruptured her ACL during pre-season preparation.
“It was so unexpected but I’m super excited about it,” Elliott said. “Everything just happened so fast and the next minute I’m moving to the other end of the country. Mum didn’t even give me time to make a decision, she just said ‘you better go and pack your bags’. My family are really proud and supportive.
“It’s (ANZ Premiership) always been something I’ve been working towards and it’s really cool that it’s now a reality.”
Heralded nationally as an exciting talent when named as the Secondary School Player of the Year at the 2016 New Zealand Netball Awards, Elliott was forced spend the majority of the 2017 season focused on rehabilitation after rupturing her Achilles tendon.
The 19-year-old has emerged from the setback even more determined to stamp her mark on the game.
“I’m definitely hungrier. I missed the court so much and even just being able to run. An injury makes you stop taking that for granted and I really want to come back faster and stronger than ever,” she said.
“I just want to learn and gain as much as I can from the Steel girls, the environment and the coaching. I’ll just be soaking everything up and hopefully develop my game.”
Elliott plays predominantly goal keep or wing defence but is apt at covering all three defensive positions.
Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham said she was excited to include Elliott in the team as it prepares to defend the ANZ Premiership title.
“I’m confident she’s the right person for our team and there’s a lot of factors which come into that decision,” she said.
“Courtney did catch my eye at the Otaki pre-season tournament where she was playing in the defence end for Magic with Casey Kopua. She seemed to be a great communicator on the court, very hungry for the ball and had good footwork.
“She’s a very talented and exciting player but, most importantly, she is going to fit into our team environment really well. Last week when she came down we almost forgot she was there because she just got on with the job, worked with the girls and just slotted in seamlessly.”
Bloxham said the franchise was robust in its search for a replacement defender, both locally and internationally.
“We definitely hunted the globe – we looked far and wide and high and low. At the end of the day, the biggest thing for me was if they were going to be the right person for our team. Yes, there was some very talented players in the Commonwealth Games and we did some research into them, but ultimately it’s nice to have someone within the New Zealand ranks that we are bringing through.
“The Beko system has provided what it said it was going to do by having a level of players below ANZ Premiership that can be lifted up. Courtney’s not fresh out of school so she has a couple of years’ experience behind her and going into a competition like this you do need that experience – it’s a very demanding environment and you have to be able to handle all sorts of things, from playing and intense training to study or work commitments and balancing life.”
The Steel kicks off its 2018 campaign against the Northern Mystics in Palmerston North on Sunday, followed by a rematch of last year’s grand final against the Central Pulse on Monday night. The team’s first home game is against the Magic in Dunedin on May 16, followed by the Mystics in Invercargill on May 21.