Elimination Final - STEEL v TACTIX
It seems a long time ago when the Silvermoon Tactix found themselves in the ANZ Premiership record books for all the wrong reasons.
Just over a year has passed since the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel put 91 goals on their southern neighbours in a demolition that left the Mainland franchise searching for answers.
Now, the Tactix have etched their name in the history pages again having turned their fortunes around with a season which has taken them to their first ever Finals Series.
But standing in their way of a fairy tale Grand Final spot is a legend of the Deep South and a fervent home crowd keen to show their thanks.
There is no doubting a key to this Elimination Final will be the Wendy Frew factor with the inspirational captain stepping down at the end of the season.
The venue has been re-named after the Steel foundation member and Invercargill is ready to send Frew out in style.
Winning back-to-back ANZ Premiership titles is high on the former Silver Ferns wish-list as she prepares to bow out and the hosts must go into this sudden death game with an edge.
They have beaten the Tactix twice this season but would be wary to ride into the Elimination Final on the back of the emotion surrounding Frew’s departure and historic results.
This is a Tactix side breaking new ground having reached the Finals Series for the very first time and building in confidence with every outing.
They boast arguably the best defensive duo of the league and an attacking weapon in Ellie Bird who has made giant steps after a patchy first half to the ANZ Premiership.
The match-up in the middle promises just as much with Silver Fern Shannon Francois the experienced head for the hosts coming up against Tactix dynamo Kimiora Poi who is making her presence felt.
Young Tactix defender Charlotte Elley will have her hands full as she attempts to limit the impact of Steel wing Gina Crampton who has been in top form.
And don’t forget Tactix captain Jane Watson who, this time last year, was wearing blue and helping the Steel win the inaugural title.
Last year’s ANZ Premiership MVP returned home to Christchurch this season and made the tough switch to goal defence where she has led by example bringing a new-found edge to the Tactix desire.
There are a number of fresh young faces in both teams and just who holds their nerve in their biggest game of the season could determine which side books their ticket to Palmerston North for the Grand Final.
WHO TO WATCH:
Wendy Frew (Steel) – all eyes will be on captain fantastic as she suits up in the blue dress at home for the last time. Will be looking to shut down the quick ball into the Tactix tall timber in Ellie Bird.
Temalisi Fakahokotau (Tactix) versus Jen O’Connell (Steel) – a huge match-up between the league’s leading defender and one of the most accurate shooters this season. Both players are key figures for their respective teams.
Ellie Bird (Tactix) – influential in how far the Tactix have come this season as she continues to go from strength to strength. Dipped to 78 percent accuracy last time she met the Steel, which was in Invercargill, with the Tactix putting up one more attempt at goal but falling short by three goals at the final whistles.
2018 – Round 6: Steel 53 Tactix 52. Round 8: Tactix 53 Steel 52. Round 11: Steel 59 Tactix 56.
2017 – Round 4: Steel 90 Tactix 41. Round 7: Steel 61 Tactix 55. Round 12: Steel 51 Tactix 46.
WHERE TO WATCH:
Venue – Wendy Frew Stadium, Invercargill at 7.30pm
Tickets are on sale through Ticket Direct – www.ticketdirect.co.nz
Prices – Premium: $45. A Res – Adult $35/Child $20/Family $88. B Res – Adult $25/Child $15/Family $64.
Broadcast live on SKY Sport 1 from 7.30pm.