NARROWLY missing out on an ANZ Premiership finals place by finishing fourth, Southern Steel had some outstanding games, and some forgettable games. The Steel burst onto the scene by stunning Mainland Tactix to the tune of 17 goals, before a week later getting rolled by Northern Mystics, 70-50. Though inconsistent, the Steel did manage to defeat every side except Central Pulse – who they pushed on occasions – showing they could match it with anyone.
Goals For: 853 (2nd)
Goals Against: 898 (6th)
Goal Difference: -45 (4th)
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
Southern Steel were undoubtedly a potent team, as emphasised by scoring the second most goals of any ANZ Premiership team. Unsurprisingly, that was due to the incredibly consistency of English Rose, George Fisher. The goal shooter piled on 586 goals from 628 attempts at 93 per cent efficiency, which could have been even high given on a couple of occasions she did not start, or was taken off. What made her so successful was the strong midcourt of Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan, with the pair recording the second most feeds of a duo as they clocked up 589 and 333 respectively.
The Southern Steel was also able to ease Georgia Heffernan back on court, returning from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, with the 22-year-old symbolic of the team. Aside from Silver Ferns veteran defender Te Huinga Selby-Rickit (33-years-old) and Saunders (turning 32), every other player will be no older than 25 at the end of the year. Millenium-born Renee Savai’inaea, Saviour Tui and Sarahpheinna Woulf also showed great development in season 2022.
As discussed above, the experience, or lack there of, hurt. Particularly in the defensive end against sides that had Silver Ferns duos. Kate Burley was ranked third in both deflections (68) and intercepts (24), and Selby-Rickit also featured in the Top 10, whilst neither were in the leading offenders for penalties. But the opposition shooters just got on top of the Steel at times, and they could not manage to arrest the momentum, with only the 2000-born Woulf and Savai’inaea as backups and both were often rotated through the wing defence bib. Overall, the Steel conceded 898 goals, which was the most in the league, leading to the fourth placed finish.
Southern Steel’s age profile is incredible, and one of a side that once everything clicks, will be an enjoyable one to watch. If the Steel can retain its core, then the extra minutes provided to youth will assist in the future. There are so many exciting players who fill in around Selby-Rickit and Saunders, and are learning so much on the go. If they were to get one more experienced player it would be up the defensive end, but patience might be the Steel’s best friend.