Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Steely southern skipper doesn't want limelight as she hits her 100th

Southern Steel's Wendy Frew. Photo / Dianne Manson
Southern Steel's Wendy Frew. Photo / Dianne Manson

Southern Steel skipper Wendy Frew isn't one to make demands.

So when the veteran midcourter went to management with a request for her 100th ANZ Championship game tomorrow, they felt they couldn't really turn her down, even if it did seem a little strange.

Frew's request for her big game? For defender Jane Watson, who is set to bring up her 50th game tomorrow against the Tactix, to lead the team out on to the court in Christchurch.

That gesture sums up Frew's leadership and approach to her sport - she puts the team before herself.

"It's not about me, I don't really like the focus to be on me rather than the team," said Frew. Which is awkward, because this story is about her.

Frew is the heart of Southern Steel. The 31-year-old has been with the franchise since the inception of the transtasman league, missing just one season after taking time out for the birth of son Archie.

Before that, she was the young star in the all-conquering Southern Sting side in the old domestic league, making her debut in her final year of high school.

Even before that, she was a ball girl at the Sting's home games.

The tenacious midcourter's gritty, no-frills approach to the game has come to be the style the Steel are renowned for. As Mystics captain Maria Tutaia alluded to in her now infamous post-match comments last weekend, the Steel aren't a flashy side. What Tutaia failed to add is they work hard, are patient on both attack and defence, and are prepared to grind out a win.

So far it has proven a winning formula for the Steel, the only unbeaten team in the competition this season.

Few would have tipped the Steel, who won just three games last season, to be so dominant this year. But they are now being thrown into the mix as an outside title chance as Kiwi fans clamber to jump on the Steel bandwagon, hoping the ANZ Championship will end on a positive note.

But while they may dare to dream, Frew refuses to look that far down the track. "You put a lot of expectations on yourself and the team and we've done that the last few years and haven't delivered, so it's a pretty good feeling that it is actually all falling into place this season. But we're not getting too ahead of ourselves."

Taking it one week at a time is an approach Frew knows well.

Last season she was not sure if she would last the distance, having discovered she was pregnant with her second child just weeks into the competition. She "boxed on and tried to put my best foot forward", playing every game. By the end of the season Frew was 16 weeks pregnant.

"It was probably good not telling anyone. The way we sort of worked it was just get on with business and not getting any attention to it, which was something I was quite big on."

Frew and partner Trent welcomed daughter Indie Rose in the beginning of November. By mid-December Frew was back on the training court.

"It is really challenging, I guess, having a six-week-old baby and getting back into training and trying to get your head around the fitness level required of ANZ."

Frew rates her conditioning this season as the best it has been in her 14 years of top-level netball. "I was really determined ... I didn't want to let my teammates down."

- NZ Herald

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