Bloxham pleased Steel on right track

Kate Heffernan (left) drives on to the ball from her sister, Georgia, during the Southern Steel’s...
Kate Heffernan (left) drives on to the ball from her sister, Georgia, during the Southern Steel’s game against the Northern Mystics in Dunedin on Sunday. PHOTOS: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Reinga Bloxham was beaming when the final whistle went.

Rightly so — the Southern Steel coach had just led her team to their first victory against the Northern Mystics since April 17, 2022.

They did it in emphatic fashion with a 47-43 victory over the ANZ Premiership defending champions at the Edgar Centre on Sunday to win the Georgina Salter Memorial Trophy.

"I actually feel amazing," Bloxham told the Otago Daily Times after the game.

"There’s been times where we let ourselves down, but ... I really felt like we took control of that game right from the start.

"I feel immensely proud of us being able to bring the trophy back here and hold on to it."

Defensively, it was the best performance of the season for the Steel who recorded 14 gains, 12 deflections, seven intercepts and three defensive rebounds.

Then there is the collective effort they showed to grind the Mystics into mistakes that do not show up on the statistics sheet.

"I’m super proud of the defensive effort that we put out there.

"It just gives them confidence in some of the things that we’ve been talking about.

"The girls really did their homework really well this week and we were really specific about what we wanted to target.

"I think that’s really pleasing as a coach when you can see that out there in real time ... and them pulling it off."

Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham.
Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham.
It was just the outcome the Steel needed after a challenging week.

A dreaded injury curse remains with the Steel after Shannon Saunders was ruled out for the season and replacement wing attack Ivari Christie was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a knee complaint.

Bloxham called up Serina Daunakamakama, who is a Mystics training partner and plays for New Zealand under-21, and after only being at two trainings, and a captain’s run, she was impressive at wing attack.

She caught the eye of Bloxham, who said Daunakamakama did an "amazing job", as did the other attackers

"You can’t underestimate somebody like Georgia and Kate Heffernan, and even Grace [Namana]," Bloxham said.

"They really did their job so well that [Daunakamakama] could just focus on what she needed to do."

Bloxham spoke during the week about other players needing to step up into senior roles without the calm presence of Saunders, and Bloxham was pleased to see the rise of Georgia Heffernan.

"Georgia works really hard and she does a power of work for us, but I think ... as the game went out, you could really see her really settle into her job and really understand that she was going to have to lead down there.

"That’s great for us going forward if she can continue to do that."

The Steel will need to build from that performance when they face the Central Pulse, who will be hurting after their first loss at the weekend, in Invercargill on Saturday.