Avoiding the wooden spoon in the transtasman netball league is all the Southern Steel can hope to achieve this campaign after they were beaten 55-42 by the NSW Swifts in Sydney this afternoon.
The defeat left the Steel anchored in a three-way tie at the bottom with the West Coast Fever and Canterbury Tactix who all have four competition points, but the Steel sit ninth, above the Tactix and below the Fever, on goal differential.
Both the Fever and Tactix have games today, which could see them lift themselves out of the logjam at the bottom.
In the final round of the regular season next week, the Steel host the Melbourne Vixens in Invercargill, which will be a tough ask to register their third victory of the year.
Today's victory for the Swifts kept their season alive as they continue to work towards sneaking in to the playoffs in the final week, but they face the unenviable task of travelling to Auckland to meet the dominant Northern Mystics next Sunday.
The Swifts sit fifth on the ANZ Championship ladder, but other results during the rest of the round will influence where they remain heading in to the last week of the round-robin.
The Steel provided plenty of fight in Sydney and despite being $10 outsiders with the bookies, stuck with the Swifts until late in the third quarter when the home side pulled away.
During the second and third stanzas the Steel drew level but were guilty of committing too many turnovers and gave the ball away 25 times during the game.
Their shooting was sharp enough through veteran goal attack Donna Wilkins (22/24), skipper Jodi Brown (15/19) and rookie Te Paea Selby-Rickit (5/7), but their mid-court was unable to provide enough ball to work with.
The Swifts in comparison put up 65 attempts on goal compared to the Steel's 50 and after starting the game with Susan Pratley at goal attack their shape changed when they moved her to goal shoot and they improved markedly.
The Queensland Firebirds host the Fever in Brisbane this afternoon and the Mystics meet the Tactix in Christchurch tonight, while the Central Pulse play the Vixens in Porirua tomorrow.
NSW Swifts 55 (Susan Pratley 36/43, Carla Dziwoki 12/13, Amorette Wild 7/9), Southern Steel 42 (Donna Wilkins 22/24, Jodi Brown 15/19, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 5/7) 1Q: 15-12, HT: 27-23, 3Q: 40-32
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel