It might be time for Australian teams to acknowledge the threat of the Southern Steel.
Noeline Taurua's team continued their unbeaten run in the ANZ Championship on Saturday, with a convincing 65-56 win over the Melbourne Vixens.
In another polished display, the Steel led throughout the match, extending their lead in each quarter. At times the Vixens drew close - especially in the first and second quarter - only for a sustained burst of scoring from the home side.
This display must add weight to the Steel's championship credentials. The feeling remains that their success this season, where they have won 11 of 12 matches (with a draw the only blot) has been underestimated. Sure, they have been competing in the New Zealand conference, which is particularly weak this year and a bit of an embarrassment compared with the cut throat competition across the Tasman.
But the Steel are improving every week and have now beaten four of the five Australian teams; their chance for a clean sweep will come next week in Sydney against the Swifts. It's an eye catching achievement and they will be tough to beat come finals time, especially with a home playoff.
The Steel weren't perfect this afternoon, but they were pretty close to it, with Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (49/54) leading the way. After holding a narrow 33-29 lead at halftime, the home side broke the game open in the third quarter.
The Steel are a different team under Taurua, who previously achieved so much success at the Magic.
There is more subtlety in their feeding into Fowler-Reid, no longer just relying on long bombs into the towering Jamaican. Te Paea Selby-Rickett (16/19) played an impressive hand at goal attack, shooting clinically and providing numerous assists to Fowler-Reid (49/54). The Vixens applied plenty of pressure throughout the court - and at times managed to slow up the Steel delivery - but couldn't achieve enough turnovers to make a difference.
Steel 65 (J Fowler-Reid 49/54, T Selby-Rickett 16/19)
Vixens 56 (A Teague-Neeld 23/27, E Ryde 16/23, K Bailey 13/15, K Commane 4/5)