Firebirds too steady for Southern Steel to topple

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 15:57 24/03/2013
Jhaniele Fowler
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
TALL IMPORT: Jhaniele Fowler is wearing the Steel's colours in 2013.

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The introduction of towering Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler hasn’t been enough to secure the Southern Steel their first trans-Tasman win on Australian soil.

Steel have opened their 2013 season with a 68-59 loss to the Queensland Firebirds at the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre this afternoon.

A nervous start from the Invercargill-based franchise saw the Steel cough up two early breaks and it was a lead that the Firebirds never relinquished, as they took a five goal lead into the first break, and a seven goal advantage at halftime and again heading into the final quarter.

Fowler, who at 1.98m was 2cm taller than her Jamaican international team mate Romelda Aiken in the Firebirds team, landed 44 goals from 48 attempts at 91 per cent in her debut for Steel, but her team mates simply couldn’t get the ball to her often enough.

With both teams shooting above 80 percent, the Firebirds banked their first win on the possession they secured through a new look midfield.

Steel started with Fowler and skipper Jodi Brown in the shooting circle and a midcourt of wing attack Courtney Tairi, centre Shannon Francois and wing defence Phillipa Finch.

Rachel Rasmussen and Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick shared the circle defence duties in the first half.

Storm Purvis was introduced at goal keep after halftime to try and restrict the flow of ball in Aiken, with Wendy Telfer moving into wing defence and Finch replacing Francois at centre.

The changes paid dividends, with Steel outscoring the Firebirds 10-6 to get back within three goals midway through the third quarter. Again they closed to a five goal difference late in the final quarter, but were unable to continue that momentum.

Steel have never won a game in Australia as the trans-Tasman competition begins its sixth season.

Quarter scores (Firebirds first): 16-11, 34-27, 51-44, 68-59.

Starting lineup: Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick (GK), Rachel Rasmussen (GD), Phillipa Finch (WD), Shannon Francois (C), Courtney Tairi (WA), Jodi Brown (GA), Jhaniele Fowler (GS).

Changes: Third quarter: Wendy Telfer (WD), Finch (C), Storm Purvis (GK).

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