Steel out to extend winning run to 15

Gina Crampton
Gina Crampton
Normally tonight's game would count for very little.

The Southern Steel is guaranteed a home ANZ Premiership final and its opponent, the Central Pulse, has clinched a top-three spot.

But this has been no normal year.

The Steel has a chance to complete an unbeaten regular season and extend its winning streak to 15.

From there, it will set its sights on the title against the Pulse, the Northern Mystics or, less likely, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

If being champion was its goal, being unbeaten champion would be the ultimate achievement.

In that sense there is everything to play for tonight in Invercargill, but a win is no given.

The Steel will be without captain Wendy Frew and shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit for tonight's match but will have Shannon Francois and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid back.

All four players missed last week's emotional victory over the Mainland Tactix just 48 hours after a van accident.

Olivia Bates, Dani Gray and Sophie Erwood stay with the side.

Winning last Wednesday night after the motor vehicle accident was not the easiest thing to do, but this team has shown it is capable of doing things that are not easy.

But tonight the Steel has to contend with a tough opponent.

The Pulse has won nine of its 14 games and has proved to be the premiership's most difficult defence to break down.

With Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka in its defensive circle, the team has conceded just 692 goals all season.

The magic number in that sense seems to be 50.

Four of the five times the Pulse has conceded 50 or more goals, it has lost, while losing only once when conceding fewer.

Given the Steel has scored above 50 in every game this year, that should be encouraging.

Indeed, in the the sides' previous meeting, the Steel delivered one of the most destructive performances in its history.

It blew the Pulse away 80-44 in what was very close to a perfect performance.

A repeat of that might be asking a little too much, particularly given the events of the past week.

Of course, the final is the one that really counts.

The Steel knows that all too well, after being beaten in last year's playoffs after a dominant regular season.

But it has also reinforced all season that it is taking things one game at a time.

If it needs any extra motivation, Gina Crampton - one of the heroes from Wednesday night - will play her 50th game for the side.

Surely the team will want to see her celebrate that with a win.

•The Tactix beat the Mystics 57-46 in Auckland yesterday throwing open the chance for the Magic to make the elimination final.

If the Magic can beat the Stars by 15 goals or more on Wednesday night, it could tip the Mystics out of the playoff game against the Pulse next Sunday afternoon.

•Netball Central has netted its first Beko Netball League crown, keeping its clean sheet in an impressive 2017 campaign.

Last year's beaten finalist held off a fast-finishing Netball Mainland 43-41 in a thrilling grand final at The Trusts Arena in Auckland yesterday.

Central posted some big scores through its regular season but was pushed hard by a willing Mainland side in its toughest game of the league.

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