Bedpost Support for Unbeaten Southern Steel in Netball Finals Series
The Bedpost team is right behind our favourite netballers as the Southern Steel take their unbeaten season into the all-important finals series.
After enjoying their well-earned weekend off for topping the New Zealand conference, the team lines up against rivals Waikato/BOP Magic in Invercargill on Sunday in an all-Kiwi showdown for the right to take on the best in Australia in the last ever ANZ Championship final.
So the crew from Bedpost will once again be courtside at ILT Stadium Southland alongside an expected crowd of more than 3000 fans cheering on the southern players as they look to top their best-ever season with a chance at lifting the silverware.
Dunedin Bedpost’s Alan Preston said it had been a magnificent season so far and “fingers crossed” Steel could match the two previous results against Magic this season when they won 63-53 in Round 3 and 64-54 in Round 12.
Over the eight previous years of trans-Tasman netball, only once has a New Zealand team ended as overall champions – and that was the Magic in 2012 – so we’re hoping that as the tournament comes to an end (next year will see both Australian and New Zealand franchises split into their own domestic competitions) we’ll see our very own Southern Steel’s name etched on that magnificent trophy.
And what a chance the Steel has!
Since the 2016 tournament tipped off on April 1, the Steel have notched up 11 wins and been held just twice to draws against the Canterbury Tactix in Round 2 and that incredible 59-all final round tie with the New South Wales Swifts in Sydney).
There’s no wonder that fans and commentators have been scratching their heads over why super-coach Noeline Taurua, who clocked up her 100th ANZ Championship game as a coach this season, has never ended up with the top job overseeing the Silver Ferns.
Mind you, the national team’s loss has been the Southern Steel’s gain this season as Noeline guided her team to become the tournament’s only unbeaten side during the regular rounds and bucked the usual one-sided trans-Tasman trend by orchestrating big wins over Aussie rivals. It’s particularly enjoyable to remember those wins over the Fever (69-62), the Thunderbirds (69-54), the Firebirds (66-51) and the Vixens (65-56).
Our other benefit from having Noeline at the helm is the former Silver Fern’s knowledge about our opponents this weekend. She was with Magic for eleven years before heading south and took them to three ANZ Championships finals, including that 2012 win, making her by far this country’s most successful current netball coach.
But only twice before have teams gone through a regular season unbeaten (Swifts in 2010 and Firebirds in 2011) so all the credit can’t just go to the coach: no, we’ve drawn on contributions from an outstanding squad throughout the thirteen games so far.
- Jhaniele Fowler-Reid has once again towered (in more ways than one) over the tournament shooting stats with her 681 goals from 753 attempts both heading the competition for accuracy (she was the only player over 90%) and being more than 100 goals ahead of her nearest rival. And to add to her all-round performance, she’s second in rebounds too and clocked up a franchise-leading 50 turnovers.
- Jhaniele’s support crew has also fired up this season with mid-courter Gina Crampton second on the list for goal assists with 198 followed closely by Silver Fern Shannon Francois (175) at fourth and Te Paea Selby-Rickit (145) at eleventh. Gina has clearly been the go-to girl throughout the regular rounds for Southern Steel, as she’s far away the tournament’s leading player for taking centre pass receptions.
- The work rate has again been exceptionally high this season with three players (Jane Watson, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Wendy Frew) in the tournament’s top-20 for intercepts and Jane Watson fifth on the table for deflections.
Southern Steel has also announced that they’ll be handing out free “warpaint” in the familiar pink and blue franchise colours before the game to ensure that their “fans’ fortress” all set to go for the game. Certainly the prize for a win couldn’t be bigger – the chance of a bringing an Australian team back to Southland for the grand final.
So Bedpost can only echo Steel captain Wendy Frew’s call to arms for the fans.
"Absolutely it feels like we're going into battle. This is the business end of the season when everything is on the line and you can bet no-one will be holding anything back, including us," she said.
"We want to walk onto that court and see a stadium full of fanatical Steel fans, decked out in our blue and pink with the decibel levels at fever pitch. That's what home advantage is all about
"I hope the fans truly understand the impact it has on us as players. They are our secret weapon."
Southern Steel versus Waikato/BOP Magic at ILT Stadium Southland will start at 4pm on Sunday.