Steel skipper steps up shooting role
Plan B for the Southern Steel is Plan Brown, as in Jodi Brown.
Last season the Steel skipper averaged just over 10 goals a game as Jhaniele Fowler-Reid ran amok in her rookie season in the trans-Tasman league.
The Steel were criticised, probably fairly, for being a one-trick pony - but to fair, it was a heck of a trick.
''It's about time that I did step up and take some responsibility, not only for my position, but some leadership within the team,'' Brown said ahead of tomorrow's fifth round game against the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.
''It's really good that we've adapted from last year, when we didn't really have a plan B - it was just throw to Jhaniele and hope that she got it and scored. This year we've learnt that the pressure that goes on Jhaniele is huge, especially in her second year. People are really targeting her.''
So, after quiet performances against the Firebirds and Pulse, games where she scored a total of 25 goals, Brown has been much more noticeable for her work in the shooting circle than the midcourt.
She shot 18 from 21 against the Magic and landed 24 of her 29 attempts in the one-goal win over the West Coast Fever in Dunedin last Saturday.
Already this season she's averaging nearly 17 goals per game.
''It's really important to have that plan B, which is me stepping up and shooting some goals and taking a little bit off [Fowler-Reid]. What's been successful for us is that I've taken that on board, but also other team-mates have stepped up and made an effort to use that game plan,'' Brown said.
''The stats don't lie. Most teams that are successful have their goal attack shooting about 15 to 20 goals per game. If I can continue to put up around about that mark every game it will take a whole load off Jhaniele, but it will also make defenders in other teams question whether they are going to mark me or Jhaniele.''
What's allowed Brown more freedom to work the circle has been the growing maturity of wing attack Shannon Francois.
''I think there was an element of me trying to help others out. That's probably been one of my biggest learnings in the offseason, that if I do my job I have to trust that other people will do theirs.
''With Shannon being in the Silver Ferns last year, she's really taken ownership of the midcourt - she's come into her own there. It's been pleasing for me to step back and say 'you tell me what to do, you are the one running the show'.''
The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel have never won a game in Australia in 16 previous attempts.
They'll come up against a Thunderbirds team who had a 16-game winning streak snapped by the Mystics on Monday night.
The Thunderbirds are down on firepower, with Emily Beaton yet to start the season after a stress fracture in her left foot and Leigh Waddington's season-ending knee injury suffered against the Mystics.
''The Mystics didn't do us any favours did they? We can work that in our favour; they are obviously hurting from a loss, they've had that key injury with Leigh Waddington and Emily Beaton being out,'' Brown said.
''We need to take advantage while their stocks are low, but we also need to continue riding our wave because each week we've shown we are getting better and better.''
- The Southland Times