Steel stun Thunderbirds to break Australian hoodoo
The Southern Steel have twice made it to the finals of the trans-Tasman netball league, but yesterday's win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds might just be the most significant result in the franchise's history.
Not only did the 61-59 win over the competition's defending champions make Twitter blow up, it also ended a seven season, 17-game hoodoo which had seen the Steel fail to bank a win on Australian soil since the competition's inception.
Tongue-in-cheek Steel coach Janine Southby said the result wasn't quite as big as her New Zealand under-21 team's win in the World Youth Cup, but it wasn't far off.
"It's a little bit like last week, it's just that relief," she said after the team's second close win in as many weeks.
"We did enough throughout the game to win, they certainly came at us in that last quarter, but we withheld that pressure and the team is just growing every week."
It didn't take long, however, for Southby's coaching pragmatism to kick in.
"I think it's fantastic, but it means nothing if we don't back it up again. It's important that we enjoy it, but we've got some work to do and it's early days in the season and we've got to stay focused - stick to your knitting is a good phrase for what we've got to do."
The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team got off to another fast start in Adelaide, leading 18-13 after the first quarter and drawing the second quarter for a five-goal advantage at halftime.
The Thunderbirds, who were banking their result on a claustrophobic midcourt defence designed to choke off ball to Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, won the third quarter by four goals and were within three midway through the fourth.
But for the second game in a row, following on from the one-goal win over the West Coast Fever in Dunedin, the Steel showed enough composure at the right times to hold the lead through to the end.
With Rachel Rasmussen ruled out by an ankle injury on Thursday, the young pairing of Storm Purvis and Phoenix Karaka was charged with denting Adelaide's international shooting combination of Erin Bell and Carla Borrego.
Erena Mikaere was trialled in the third quarter, but it was the work of the two New Zealand under-21 defenders which helped maintain the Steel's momentum from the back.
Phillipa Finch will remember her 75th game for the franchise fondly, while Fowler-Reid converted 50 from 59.
Rasmussen should be fit enough to play against the Northern Mystics when the Steel attempt to win for the first time in the rebuilt ILT Stadium Southland on Sunday.
Last night, the Firebirds beat the Mystics 58-50 in Brisbane and the Magic defeated the Fever 65-48.
- The Southland Times