Southern Steel seek another win on Aussie soil

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 25/04/2014

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The curse has been broken, but winning in Australia doesn't get any easier for the Southern Steel.

Last month's victory over the Thunderbirds in Adelaide snapped a 16-game losing streak across the ditch which stretched back to the start of the trans-Tasman league.

The Thunderbirds have since undergone a midseason meltdown, the defending champions losing four on the bounce after a competition record 16-straight wins, but that shouldn't take away just what an achievement that win in Adelaide was.

Whether the Steel can back that up with a win over the NSW Swifts in Canberra today will depend on just how well they have recovered from a big win over the Tactix in Christchurch on Monday that was tougher than it looked, according to midcourter Shannon Francois.

"There were a few sore bodies, it was quite a physical match," Francois said. "Everyone is quite conscious of recovery and making sure that we do things really well and prepare for [today's] game."

The Steel's travelling arrangements haven't made life any easier, flying to Canberra via Brisbane adding another two hours to the trip.

Travel is nothing new for the Steel, but winning in Australia is.

"It's quite exciting going back," Francois said.

"We've got good memories of last time we were over there, but it's a different week, a different game. The Swifts are a totally different team to the Tactix, it's that Australian style. Hopefully we can perform as well as we did against the Tactix."

Francois was an impressive newcomer in the Silver Ferns setup last year and is a strong contender for the Commonwealth Games squad.

While players have had meetings with the Ferns selectors during the trans-Tasman league, they have largely been left to focus on their franchises.

"Obviously it's in the back of your mind, but I'm focused on Steel and building combinations, just making sure that we perform well and get those wins.

"If the Commonwealth Games happen then great, and if not, then there will be another stepping stone."

The Swifts have lost their last two games in a row, including an embarrassing 15-goal defeat at the hands of the Firebirds.

Swifts coach Rob Wright said the entire team and management were disappointed with that result.

"I think there are things that came out of the last two games that really show that we've got to make some adjustments, because teams have analysed us well and worked some things out about how we want to play the game," he said.

"That means we've got to come up with better solutions and better strategies for countering that when those situations occur."

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Today's game is the first trans-Tasman match to be played in Canberra, as part of Australian Anzac commemorations.

The Steel's third win of the season on Monday lifted them from ninth to seventh and within one win of the top four teams in a congested ladder.

Despite their two straight losses, the Swifts are still third overall.

- Fairfax Media

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