2021 ANZ Premiership: Elimination final preview

IT has all come down to this elimination final as the Southern Steel host Mainland Tactix in what is a do-or-die clash with the winner set to go into the ANZ Premiership grand final and face off against Northern Mystics.

Southern Steel vs. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, August 1 @4:20pm

Heading into the match the two sides have played three times with the Steel holding the upper hand having won two of the games meaning it will take a mammoth effort from the Tactix if they are to upset their opponents. If the Tactix are able to pull the win off they will appear in back-to-back grand finals and will be hoping to draw on that critical 2020 experience in this clash.

Boasting an incredibly young line up with limited finals experience the Steel will be relying on their wiser heads to lead the way with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit down one end of the court and Shannon Saunders up the other. Selby-Rickit will likely be opposed to younger sister Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is a real barometer for the Mainland Tactix with her clever movement and spatial awareness enabling her to dish off pinpoint passes in attack or shoot them herself. Even if Te Paea is not having an overwhelmingly huge influence on the scoreboard her overall court craft is what sets her apart meaning the Steel defence will have to knuckle down on her influence. Expect the likes of Taneisha Fifita to come out with a real fire in her belly with the goal keeper renowned for her ability to go out hunting and cause a ruckus with her physicality under the post to upset the likes of Ellie Bird. If Fifita is able to get in the head of Bird early and contest the high ball coming in it will go a long way in setting the Steel up for a win. Conversely if Bird is able to keep Fifita at bay and exploit her height it will create a strong launching pad for the Tactix to apply some serious scoreboard pressure.

Looking through the midcourt, there is no denying that Saunders will have to lead from the front for the Steel. The wing attack is incredibly crafty around circle edge with her positioning and timing allowing her to impose herself time and time again. Saunders’ influence will all come down to the workrate of Charlotte Elley with the wing defence often flying under the radar but a key cog in the Tactix’s defensive setup. But even if Saunders is not firing on all cylinders there is no denying the impact of Kate Heffernan who has developed at a rate of knots throughout the season with her repeated efforts both in attack and defence. The Tactix have a bit of versatility in wing attack with Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan able to play the role but offering vastly different options in the position. Pedersen provides more of a steady head and is stronger around circle edge to combat the physicality of Renee Savai’inaea while Nathan offers a bit of zip in attack. The other livewire for the Tactix through the midcourt is Kimiora Poi with the centre renowned for her energiser bunny type of mentality and constant movement to keep things ticking over in both the front half and down back.

The tussle in the goal circle will draw plenty of attention with George Fisher arguably having the upper hand over Jane Watson in their past couple of encounters. Fisher is a huge target inside the circle with her split and ball control second to none while her partnership with Tiana Metuarau is almost impossible to stop. Metuarau does not need a wealth of space or time to have an impact with her netball smarts well and truly front and centre every time she takes the court. It will be up to Karin Burger who is in career-best form to nullify the influence of her former teammate both inside and outside the ring. If both Burger and Watson are able to stop the speed of the ball coming into the circle and combine that with their presence over the shot they could force the Steel to become unstuck in attack.

This game will come down to a battle of nerves, which team will be able to stick together and ride the wave of momentum. With so many young players in their squad it will be a big ask for the Steel to topple the Tactix who have a number of Silver Ferns representatives and will be eager for some grand final redemption.

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