Southern Steel proud of progress to finals

The Southern Steel is not celebrating early.

But defying everyone’s expectations is something it has acknowledged this week.

The Steel faces the Mainland Tactix in Sunday’s ANZ Premiership elimination final.

It will host the match in Invercargill, having finished second and won seven of its last eight games

That seemed an unlikely scenario three months ago, as a young team was thrashed in a tough preseason.

However, it has come a long way since then.

While finals netball is new to many of its players, coach Reinga Bloxham said the Steel was doing its best to cope on the big stage.

Rather than playing it down, it was embracing what it had already achieved.

"I think the beautiful thing about finals netball is you have to remember to celebrate the fact you got there," Bloxham said.

"That was something we talked about after the weekend was to be proud of where we’ve come as a team and how we’ve been able to push ourselves into contention.

"I think if you put a lid on it, it’ll burst open.

"I think it’s important to recognise it, acknowledge it and keep moving on from it."

Bloxham admitted she had been a little surprised by how well the team had played in its first game of the season — against the Tactix in Invercargill.

She had though it might have been "undercooked" but the Steel won well that day and she had been encouraged by the potential she saw.

It is still searching for what she dubbed the "perfect performance".

However, it was playing with consistency and more than anything else, knew how to win tight games.

"I think over the last couple of games we have had some really tightly contested games and there’s been a lot of pressure in those games.

"We’ve known to get ourselves into the top three we were going to have to win them.

"But we’ve always tried to talk about sticking to the processes and going into each game and making sure we focus each quarter at a time.

"So the pleasing thing has been that we’ve been confident sitting in that pressure and we’ve been able to execute in our jobs and our roles."

She added that there was still room for growth, though.

There had been periods where the team had chances to pull away and had been unable to do so.

Bloxham expected a tough game from the Tactix.

Alongside being a high-quality team, it is one which has remained largely the same from last year — Karin Burger coming in for Temalisi Fakahokotau in the only change.

The last time they met, the Steel claimed a tight win in Nelson, although the time before that the Tactix handed the Steel a big loss.

Aside from midcourter Ali Wilshier, who will miss the rest of the season, the Steel is expected to be at full strength for the match.

The winner will play the Northern Mystics in Auckland in the final next weekend.

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