Crunch time for the Steel - May 27, 2022
It’s crunch time for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel as three must-win games loom to conclude a turbulent ANZ Premiership campaign.
To round out the regular season, the Steel will face the fast-finishing Robinhood Stars at ILT Stadium Southland on Sunday before a rematch in Auckland on Thursday followed by a clash with the Splice Construction Magic in Hamilton on Saturday.
The challenge ahead is not lost on head coach Reinga Bloxham but she knows her team is capable of achieving success against the odds.
“It is crunch time. We’ve just prepared like every game is our final basically because we know that’s what we’re going to have to do. We’ve got to win every game to give ourselves half a chance to get through to the top three,” she said.
“There’s a bit of pressure there but that’s actually part and parcel of our job in this high performance environment so we have to be able to perform under pressure. We’ve got to put it all into action.”
2022 was undoubtedly “a season like absolutely no other”.
“There’s just nothing in any coaching manual that I’ve seen to deal with it. I know we will be better off for it and when we have time to stop and reflect we will look back and I think there will be so many things where we will go ‘oh my gosh, how did we make it through those scenarios’,” Bloxham said.
“It has been tough and it’s just been a season where you have one thing happen and you accept it and you try and move forward and then something else hits you from the side so it’s definitely been a learning curve.”
The Steel continued to make strong progress in the latter stages, earning praise from the coach.
“Saturday’s game against the Pulse was really tough and when we headed into Sunday’s game against the Magic, two things could have happened. We could have just completely crumbled or we could have stood up and played some good netball and that’s exactly what we did. I thought we finished that game stronger than we started those four games in eight days and I was really proud of that.”
A congested points ladder and the nature of results had added an element of unpredictability to the league this season.
“Everyone’s been hit with Covid at different times during the season where they’ve had moments of what you could call weakness and then everybody’s just been building back into it. It’s been a strength of all teams, just their willingness to get back out on the court and try and find that consistency and performance again. I think teams have done really well,” Bloxham said.
“We’re at the tricky part of the season where it is still unknown as to who is going to be in that top three. Obviously the Mystics have the best opportunity right now but who else is going to be there is still up in the air and that’s great for our sport.”
Previous encounters against the Stars have been spirited affairs and Bloxham predicted another classic showdown was imminent.
“We always have a really strong battle with the Stars and they are definitely finding some form. We’ve done our homework and looked at ways of how we can disconnect their attack end. They are the safest team in the competition with the ball so we know that any time we have the ball in our possession we have to be absolutely clinical with it otherwise if they get it, they are pretty much going to take it down to their shooters and score it,” she said.
“We’ve made sure we know exactly what we’re in for and we are up for it.”