Southern Steel determined to defy the odds
The challenge is impressive, but the reward would also be significant for Southern Steel this afternoon.
On the face of things, Steel, who are out of semifinal contention, have little to gain against a league-leading Melbourne Vixens outfit which has the playoffs firmly in its sights.
The gap between the two teams on the competition ladder is hefty, but Steel are in a good run of form after three straight wins since switching to their magenta clash dress. They can also make a move up the table if things run their way.
An upset win over the Vixens could see them overtake the Pulse for fifth place overall, if the Pulse were to suffer a big enough loss to the Fever in Perth.
That would mean an improvement in both finishing position and season wins from 2013 for a Steel team that has made gains this year.
Standing in their way, however, is a Vixens team that has the second-best attack (behind Steel) and the best defence in the competition and will be chasing the franchise's third minor premiership.
Steel coach Janine Southby is well aware of what the Vixens will bring with them.
"They are a really strong team, particularly their defensive end. We know that they have the best defence in the competition and that presents a massive challenge for us," Southby said.
"They are building for the finals so they will be preparing for nothing short of a win and a good performance."
The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel have beaten the Mystics, Magic and Tactix in succession, but had to come from behind to win in Dunedin on Sunday.
"I thought the heart that we showed was great, and is something that we've been working on and I think over the last couple of weeks we've seen that resolve, the ability to have each other's backs," Southby said.
"One of the things is that we don't want to get in a position where we are 10 goals down on any opposition.
"We've done that in two games, but on the flipside we've done that and gone on to win, which is something we didn't earlier in the season.
"You can't do that against the Vixens because there's no way they would let you back in."
Steel have been monitoring the progress of goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid this week after she sprained her left knee against the Tactix. Southby was optimistic she would be available.
- The Southland Times