Vixens targeting Steel's undersized defence
The Vixens will try to target the Southern Steel's under-rated circle defence when the two teams meet in Melbourne on Monday night.
Steel circle stoppers Rachel Rasmussen and Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick have been a quiet revelation for the Invercargill-based franchise this season, despite gaining less limelight than outstanding goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler at the other end of the court.
But that's where Vixens midcourter Madison Browne believes her team can gain an edge over New Zealand's most in-form team with the Melbourne shooting pairing of Tegan Caldwell and Sharelle McMahon.
Inevitably, the Vixens pre-game scouting has focussed heavily on Fowler, but Browne said the Jamaican international was not the sole reason for the Steel's resurgence.
"Probably because they've got some great scoring power in her, she's obviously the big difference, I guess, but because they're having some more success they're growing and have got some huge confidence," Browne said.
"Courtney Tairi was out last season and she's a great Australian feeder as well, so she brings a lot there and one of their weaknesses is probably more their defence end where we can hopefully [target] a bit of a shorter, quicker defence with (Sulu-Tone) Fitzpatrick and (Rachel) Rasmussen as well."
The Vixens are coming off an 11-goal loss to the Queensland Firebirds and are third on the trans-Tasman ladder, one win ahead of the Steel.
The Firebirds loss was particularly disappointing at home, Browne said.
"It's our second loss and it's like we've been wiped off, it's not what we want, we've still got a lot of games and we can still get to where we want to finish on the ladder...I think we were disappointed in our fight on the weekend, we didn't fight it out, we didn't look like we were hungry enough or wanted it enough so I think we'll be out there on Monday night in front of another home crowd to prove we are still top contenders in this competition."
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said her team needed to be clever about the way they handled the Steel.
"It's got to be all over the court, their combinations all over the court has been quite good and their defence end has been working quite well so we really have to be smart about moving the ball," McKinnis said.
"Smart about making sure we've got options and lots of options out there on court and making them think about what they're doing and we have to make them accountable defensively and that means everybody has to be working really smart and hard at our own game."
The Steel train in Dunedin today and don't fly to Melbourne until Sunday, the day before the game
The Southland Times