Steel in good heart for Thunderbirds clash

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014

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Australian umpires and travel - the Southern Steel will look to combat the two issues which have thwarted them across the ditch since the start of the tran-Tasman competition.

The Steel take on the Adelaide Thunderbirds, in Adelaide on Sunday afternoon, hoping to break a 16-game losing streak on Australian soil.

To help them do that they have changed their travel arrangements, gathering in Auckland tonight, rather than Christchurch, and then taking a direct flight tomorrow.

Steel assistant coach Reinga Te Huia believes the travel factor shouldn't be a big deal this early in the campaign.

"I think our preparation for each week has been really good. It's just part of the game now, so I don't think mentally it's a factor.

"Obviously physically it can be, but I think we are early enough in the competition that we are physically fresh. I don't think it's a big issue."

What will likely be an issue - because it generally is - is the different umpiring styles New Zealand teams struggle to adapt to in Australia.

"The interpretation of some rules can be quite different at times and that can be quite frustrating. The quicker you adapt to it on the court, the better off you'll be," Te Huia said.

"They let a bit more go, but they interpret contact differently. They seem to have more offensive contact. In our preparation we've talked about the players doing everything they can to not bring [the umpires] into the game.

"They look for elbows and things like that so when you are changing direction you are doing it without touching other players."

It's been a good week in Steel following the team's first win in four starts, a fingernail battering one-goal win over the West Coast Fever in Dunedin.

"Everyone is feeling pretty positive about that win, it was nice getting that monkey off the back and getting that W beside our name," Te Huia said.

"We are feeling happy about it, but at this stage of the competition we don't know what's going to happen next. We have to prepare each week and for each game like it's a final because it's just so up and down."

There probably couldn't be a worse time to be going to Adelaide.

The defending champions have just had their 16-game unbeaten streak broken by the Mystics, but the Steel will take confidence from having just beaten another well-coached Australian team.

"I think for us it was good preparation coming into the Thunderbirds - just that different style of game. We know that this week is going to be super-tough, they'll be wounded Aussies who will be looking for a scalp and we are still looking for that win in Australia."

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- Fairfax Media

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