Netball: Steel's suspense ends tonight

By Dana Johannsen

After an agonising two days in limbo, the Southern Steel will tonight learn the fate of their ANZ Championship season.

The Steel's hopes of securing their first finals appearance in the transtasman league hinges on the outcome of tonight's match between the West Coast Fever and the Queensland Firebirds in Perth.

But for Steel defender Megan Hutton there is even more resting on the game. Her elite netballing career may be over after tonight.

Planning on retiring at the end of the season, veteran defender Hutton took the court against the NSW Swifts on Saturday not knowing if it would be the last time she would play for the Steel.

The Southland franchise did all they could to ensure she can extend her career by at least one more game , beating the Swifts 55-48 in their final round clash in Invercargill to keep their finals hopes alive.

The Firebirds need to beat the Fever tonight by about 12 goals to edge the Steel out of the top four on goal percentage. The Queensland side could still scrape in with a 10 or 11 goal win if they can restrict the Fever to less than 45 goals.

The Steel will watch the game together tonight and Hutton expects it will be an extremely tense hour of viewing.

"It's a hard one alright, it would have been good to know after our win on Saturday that we were through, so to wait until [tonight], it's definitely going to be an anxious wait," she said.

The 33-year-old admits the uncertainty has been especially hard for her as her retirement plans are temporarily on hold.

"It's a weird feeling, it sort of feels finished, but at the same time you're hanging out for news that it will go on a bit longer," she said.

Hutton, who has battled with Achilles, ankle and knee injuries this season admits 10-years of top level netball has taken its toll on her body.

But she will happily extend out the punishment another week, or three if all goes to plan, if it means seeing the Steel through to their first finals appearance in the transtasman league.

"I'm definitely feeling it after every game, but the price is very little to pay when I know I could be playing in the semis for the first time in such a tough competition, I'll do whatever I can do to play," said Hutton.

"It would just be the icing on the cake if it goes our way and we go through to compete in the semis."

* Who will snatch the final playoff spot?

The Steel will advance through to the ANZ Championship finals if:

The West Coast Fever beat the Queensland Firebirds in Perth tonight, or,

The Firebirds win by less than 10 goals

The Firebirds need to beat the Fever by about 10-12 goals to make it beyond the regular season, depending on how many goals they can restrict the Fever to.

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