Netball: Steel hoping to beat their neighbours

By Daniel Richardson

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit of the Steel looks to pass the ball during the round eight ANZ Championship. Photo / Getty Images.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit of the Steel looks to pass the ball during the round eight ANZ Championship. Photo / Getty Images.

Six teams remain in contention for the top four of the trans-Tasman netball league but Monday's wooden-spoon battle between the Southern Steel and Canterbury Tactix may be the most hotly-contested match of round 12.

Both South Island outfits have struggled this season and the bottom-placed Tactix have registered only one win from 10 games. The ninth-placed Steel have fared only slightly better with two wins from 10 outings.

Injuries haven't helped the Steel's cause as they've watched Shannon Francois, Sheryl Scanlan and Courtney Tairi all spend time on the sidelines and Wendy Frew withdrew from the side before the beginning of the campaign due to being pregnant.

The Tactix, meanwhile, spent the first half of the campaign tinkering with their starting lineup, and in recent weeks have shown improvement but their only victory remains a 54-51 triumph over the NSW Swifts in round two.

Steel co-coach Natalie Avellino said Monday's game was important to help her side avoid finishing last and noted they beat the Tactix when they tipped the Cantabrians over 55-53 in round three - the last time her outfit tasted success.

"Every game's been a must-win and we certainly have had some close ones but we go into every game wanting to win and play the best that we can," Avellino said.

"The Tactix, we only just beat them last time we played them so we are hoping that we can get up. We are definitely due for a win, as too are the Tactix, so it's going be a real battle of the south."

Given both sides' dire placing on the ANZ Championship ladder, Avellino expected the Tactix to be targeting the Steel.

"I'm sure they would. They were close to us and they've certainly improved since we played them last time and they've found a familiar and settled lineup and they're not changing as much. So they're obviously confident with the performances they've been putting out and they've obviously been close to some big teams so I'm sure they're really keen to knock us off."

Avellino was relieved she didn't have any fresh injury concerns this week and her side will go in to the game as favourites given it will be played in Invercargill.

At the pointy end of the table, the second-placed Melbourne Vixens get the round underway on Sunday when they host the eighth-placed West Coast Fever.

Three will meet four in Sydney as the third-placed Adelaide Thunderbirds tackle the NSW Swifts. Both sides have 14 competition points - like Melbourne - and victory will be vital to keep pace with the top four.

The match of the round, though, will undoubtedly be between the table-topping Northern Mystics and the fifth-placed Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in Auckland on Sunday evening.

After a slow start to the season, the Magic have found their stride and are only one win outside of the top four, while they also boast the best goals for-and-against ratio in the competition.

Victory this weekend would see the Magic claim a place in the top-four with two weeks of the competition remaining.

The Pulse and the sixth-placed Queensland Firebirds have the bye this weekend.

- APNZ

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