Netball: Venue a plus versus mighty Mystics

The Steel will return to one of its happy hunting grounds this weekend as it looks to extend its unbeaten run in this year's ANZ Championship and further cement its place at the top of the New Zealand conference.

The southern side will make its first appearance in Dunedin this season when it takes on the Mystics at the Edgar Centre on Sunday afternoon.

The team's appearances at the venue have been few and far between since the transtasman competition was established in 2008.

However, it has made a fine fist of them, dropping just five of 17 matches over the past eight seasons and losing its last game there back in 2013.

It has won six of eight matches against New Zealand teams, including a 4-0 whitewash over the Tactix and two wins from three against the Pulse, and has even knocked over Australian sides five times.

Its last outing at the venue was a 50-49 win over the Pulse last season, which followed a 53-53 draw with the Thunderbirds the previous week.

It would be a stretch to call the venue a fortress for the Steel, but it certainly adds to the side's advantage as it looks to topple the struggling Mystics and extend its record five-match winning streak.

If that happens, it would virtually assure the pace-setting New Zealand team of securing top spot in the Kiwi conference, and an all-important home playoff match later this season.

The Steel has a massive eight-point jump on its closest New Zealand rivals, one of which is the Mystics, whose slim mathematical chance of qualifying top would end if it lost on Sunday.

That would mean only the Tactix or Magic could theoretically haul the Steel in, but they would have to win all their remaining matches and hope the Steel won none to have any chance of doing so.

Sunday's clash will be the first of two matches to be played in Dunedin this year and will contain a host of internationals.

The Steel boasts 21-test centre Shannon Francois and one-cap international Wendy Frew, as well as uncapped Silver Ferns pair Storm Purvis and Gina Crampton and Jamaican superstar Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.

The Mystics roster includes Silver Ferns Anna Harrison, Cathrine Tuivati, Maria Tutaia, Kayla Cullen and Temalisi Fakahokotau, as well as English international Serena Guthrie.

The Steel's other match in Dunedin is against the Firebirds on June 11.

The Queensland side is the defending champion and has won 21 matches in a row, dating back to round one last year.

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