Battle of opposing strengths

Kate Heffernan has had a fine season for the Steel. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Kate Heffernan has had a fine season for the Steel. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Southern Steel hosts the Mainland Tactix in Sunday’s ANZ Premiership elimination final. Jeff Cheshire looks at five key points before the game.

Navigate the defence

Steel shooters George Fisher and Tiana Metuarau have been clinical all year. If they can get the ball, there is a good chance they will put it through the goal. But there is no defence that is harder to penetrate than that of the Tactix’s pairing of Jane Watson and Karin Burger. Both bring intensity, intelligence and long, rangy arms to pick off feeds.

Contain Poi

The Tactix midcourt runs through livewire centre Kimiora Poi. A bundle of energy, she is typically influential on both attack and defence and helps link strong pairings at each end. However, the Steel has one of the competition’s best to mark her in Kate Heffernan, who has taken yet another leap in her promising career.

Hang tough

Finals games are often tight, hard-fought affairs and that should suit the Steel. More than anything else, this Steel team has been good at finding ways to win. It turns over ball when it needs to. It is patient with the ball when it needs to be. It rarely gets a big lead, but it has been so good at getting in front and holding on under pressure.

Use the crowd

The Steel players often talk about the advantage of playing in front of the Invercargill crowd. It might seem like good PR, but there is no denying the numbers. Since the ANZ Premiership began in 2017 the Steel has lost only three games at Stadium Southland.

Family ties

Last time the Steel made the finals, the Selby-Rickit sisters were on the same side. However, shooter Te Paea made the trek to Christchurch last year and will return to her longtime home court as the enemy. She will go up against her sister, Te Huinga Reo. They have matched up plenty of times in the past, although doing so in a playoff game will take the sibling rivalry to another level.

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