Southern Steel's season hangs in balance

HIGH INTENSITY: Southern Steel warm up for a match at Stadium Southland.
HIGH INTENSITY: Southern Steel warm up for a match at Stadium Southland.

The Southern Steel will try and harness some of the desperation they've seen in other New Zealand franchises over the past week.

On Sunday, the Steel lost 67-61 to a Northern Mystics team who couldn't afford to drop any more games and still remain a playoff contender.

The following night, the Steel were spectators as the Central Pulse downed the previously unbeaten Magic to keep their semifinal hopes alive.

Come Monday the Steel will make their own trip to the Last Chance Saloon when they host the Pulse in Invercargill.

Traditionally, four losses - which is where the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team sit now - is the line between teams playing June finals netball and an early end-of-season team trip.

"It's a real confidence in ourselves thing at the moment," Steel assistant coach Reinga Te Huia said.

"We proved that we could do it and then it almost feels like we've taken a backward step, but we really haven't. We just need to trust in ourselves and those around us and just put the performance out on the court."

The Steel have come from being beaten heavily at home in the opening round by the Firebirds, to consecutive wins over Australian teams, including that history-making victory over the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.

They had proven they could win in tight games, but went close once too often against the Mystics.

They are also unlikely to have the services of Phillipa Finch, who damaged a calf during the warmup for Sunday's game.

Finch's progress continues to be assessed, but at best she'll only play a limited part against the Pulse, meaning the Steel will be without her 75 games' worth of experience.

Rachel Rasmussen continues to improve from the ankle injury which took her out of the Thunderbirds win.

She surprised by getting through three quarters against the Mystics.

There's a special rivalry between the Steel and Pulse, with Wellington-based players Donna Wilkins, Liana Leota, Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Paula Griffin and coach Robyn Broughton all having worn Steel blue at some point in their careers.

"I think even with Robyn's association with netball in Southland, I know the girls are great friends off the court and when it comes to on the court they leave it all out there."

Fairfax Media