8 Aug 2018

The reigning netball champions - remember them?

3:26 pm on 8 August 2018

Analysis - The reigning ANZ Premiership champions the Southern Steel are to out prove why they are still the best.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Gina Crampton and Jennifer O'Connell of the Southern Steel

Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Gina Crampton and Jennifer O'Connell of the Southern Steel Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

While the nation celebrates the Central Pulse hosting their first ANZ Premiership grand final and a historic finals inclusion for the Mainland Tactix, the Southern Steel coast under the radar.

The Southerners went undefeated last season and this year have won 10 from 15 matches, only two less than the Pulse and will host the semi-final - but where's the recognition?

Since Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid departed for the Australian competition she seems to have taken all hopes of the Steel retaining their title even if they have been the Pulse's only competition on the ladder.

"It's quite funny, since Jhaniele left we read articles that we're rated to finish sixth in the comp," Steel captain Wendy Frew said.

"There is a wee bit of motivation in that and coming off winning last year we know what it takes to go all the way and win."

Southern Steel celebrating victory at the 2017 ANZ Premiership Final

Southern Steel celebrating victory at the 2017 ANZ Premiership Final Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2017 www.photosport.nz

When you watch the Steel don't expect anything too flashy but certainly expect all the small things executed to precision.

The Southerners prove time and time again that spectacular intercepts, Harrison hoists, diving out of court to save the ball may make for great viewing but its ball in hand that wins games and the Steel have got it in spades.

Second on the ladder, they've had the least amount of bonus points scored against them with only two teams coming within five points when they've won. They have also clocked up the most goals this season.

"The one percenters in games like this can win you matches and for us it's really important that we recognise them," Frew said.

"It's about our senior players stepping up this week, the ones who have been in these games before and who have experienced the pressure making sure we deliver."

Goal shooter Jennifer O'Connell returns from illness and the six foot three 21-year-old has more than proven to be as much of a threat as Fowler-Reid. She's an obvious target for Silver Ferns defending duo Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau but it's not her they need to be worried about.

The Steel are one of the most accurate attacking teams of the competition and the real threat lies in midcourters Gina Crampton and Shannon Francois - add Te Paea Selby-Rickit and its class with a capital 'C'.

Crampton sweeps the floor in the centre pass receive statistic by 67 and her effortless combinations with Francois and Selby-Rickit to set up O'Connell is severely underrated, but perhaps being underrated has got the unsuspecting Southerners this far.

"We have concentrated on one game at time and it's been really beneficial doing that, but there has been a bit of forward planning in case we win this game already," Frew said.

"We have certainly been analysing the Tactix really hard and if we get the win in on Wednesday we'll be analysing the Pulse come Thursday morning."

"They'd be no better feeling than to win in my last game at home at Wendy Frew Stadium, I just need to stay grounded and put in a really good performance."

The ANZ Premiership's elimination final between the Southern Steel and the Mainland Tactix starts at 7.30pm this evening at the ILT Stadium Southland, which has been renamed the Wendy Frew Stadium in honour of Frew's final career home game.