Central Pulse hoping for full-strength Southern Steel as tuneup for home elimination final
This was meant to be a story about the Central Pulse needing to beat the Southern Steel to earn a home elimination final.
Instead, the Mainland Tactix went and upset the Northern Mystics on Sunday 57-46 in Auckland - just their second win of the season - which means next Sunday's elimination final will be held in Wellington, most likely at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena.
The Mystics might now miss out altogether, having looked certainties to at least make the finals, if not host the eliminator.
Now if the Waikato-BOP Magic can thrash the Northern Stars by more than 15 goals on Wednesday then they could book a trip to Wellington next weekend.
Back to the Pulse-Steel game in Invercargill on Monday night, it now shapes as the ideal tuneup for Pulse ahead of the elimination final against the team who will host the grand final on June 28.
The Steel's van crash last week left four key players injured, but they welcome back centre Shannon Francois and Jamaican international shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid for Monday's match. Captain Wendy Frew and goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit remain sidelined.
Pulse captain Katrina Grant said she was hoping the Steel would be able to put out as strong a lineup as possible.
"It's going to be a very tough game. That team has been through a lot over the last week, which is really sad and unfortunate, so hopefully they've got all their players to play against on Monday.
"We don't want them to be depleted. You always want to come up against the best players and challenge yourself because that's what we're here for."
The Pulse's run to their first-ever finals appearance wasn't always smooth, with two sets of back-to-back losses in the middle of the season threatening their place in the top three.
But Grant said the difference between this season and previous years was their ability to pick themselves back up after those defeats.
"We came together and had a good chat and had some team time and realised that if we want to win games we need to work together and play for each other and with each other.
"We also knew this is a long season, if you're tired you can't just stop, you need to keep pushing forward and want to do it for each other and the franchise. I think we've done that and it's great to get in the finals."
Never was that more prevalent than in their 57-47 win over the Stars last Wednesday, when they suffered through a rough patch in the third quarter.
"I think in past seasons when the other team has come back we've kind of let them come in.
"This year it's a team that doesn't lie down, it does keep pushing, can push on, come back out and know that we are a good side and if we just trust the processes and each other we can win games."
AT A GLANCE
ANZ Premiership, round 13
Who: Southern Steel v Central Pulse
Where and when: Stadium Southland, Invercargill, 7.40pm Monday
TAB: Steel $1.18, Pulse $4.50
On Sunday at The Trusts Arena, Auckland: Tactix 57 (Brooke Leaver 32/39, Anna Thompson 25/33) beat Mystics 46 (Maria Tutaia 24/28, Bailey Mes 22/23) Q1:17-14, HT: 33-22, Q3: 42-32.