2021 ANZ Premiership: Season review – Southern Steel

NOW that the ANZ Premiership season is done and dusted Draft Central casts an eye over each team and how they fared throughout their 2021 campaign. Securing third spot was the Southern Steel who just fell short in the elimination final against the Tactix.

Season overview:

The Southern Steel enjoyed a rapid rise up the ranks in season 2021. Donning a completely different line-up to their 2020 side the Steel had five players under the age of 21 with their youth proving more than capable of stepping up to the plate time and time again. The Southern Steel claimed some huge scalps throughout the season and really built with both their attack end and defensive unit firing on all cylinders to finish the home and away season in second spot but falling short in finals. In fact they finished on the same number of wins as the Mystics – 11 – with only percentage separating the two sides.


“Yeah, it’s (the team is) extremely young but I think it’s quite exciting. They bring so much energy and are just so enthusiastic and like sponges,” Saunders said. “They just want to learn which is really cool and I think it just creates a new environment for us, which is exciting.”

“Lots of other teams don’t really know how we’re going to come together or what type of game we’re going to play, so I think that’s really exciting because we’re a lot of unknown for everyone so I think that will provide a good challenge for other teams playing us.”

Chatting to Draft Central pre-season, Shannon Saunders highlighted how the mix of youth and new connections will catch many teams off-guard and that was well and truly evident with the Steel causing upsets left, right and centre.

Shining light:

It is hard to look past England international, George Fisher with the goal shooter proving to be an immovable force under the post. Having already signed on for season 2022 there is plenty to get excited about for Steel fans given the impact the goaler had on the side with her strong holds, accuracy to post and sheer star power. With composure and class to boot, Fisher was a lynchpin inside the circle able to dictate the flow in attack and combine effortlessly with partner in crime Tiana Metuarau. The pair could not be contained when they were on-song exploiting the space with great ease.

Team breakdown:

The experience of Saunders and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was instrumental for the new-look Steel outfit as the pair held down the fort at their respective ends of the court. Saunders led the charge up forward alongside Fisher and Metuarau who took no time at all to develop their connection while Selby-Rickit plied her trade down back to provide a calming presence. Youngster Taneisha Fifita cleaned up her game throughout the season with the highly physical defender still proving to be an imposing figure with her tenacity and ball winning ways on full display.

The midcourt also had a new look with no Gina Crampton and Saunders pushing back to her wing attack roots, Kate Heffernan took the reins in the centre and did not skip a beat. The defensive minded midcourter was a workhorse both in attack and defence to win ball back and mount pressure with her three-foot marking. Crossing from the Pulse at the end of last year alongside Metuarau, Renee Savai’inaea enjoyed the extra court time with the wing defence using her strength to dictate play around circle edge. All in all the Steel showed plenty of promise with their speed and connections paying dividends but a lack of experience cost them at the point end of the season.

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