New Steel recruit helps southerners take second win of season
Former Silver Fern Ellen Halpenny has donned the blue strip of the Deep South to help the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel to a morale boosting 41-40 ANZ Premiership victory.
The new police officer, who stepped away from netball to graduate from police college late last year, was called into the Steel shooting circle as injury cover and made an impact in the southerners win over the Splice Construction Magic.
Halpenny’s experience and composure under pressure was telling in the tight tussle as she netted all of her nine attempts at goal.
The importance of the match was evident in the desire from both teams as they look to haul themselves off the bottom of the ANZ Premiership ladder and remain in contention for a Finals Series spot.
The win was just the second for a Steel side which has been hit hard in the shooting circle with two key injuries, coach Reinga Bloxham opting for Kiana Pelasio to join import Kalifa McCollin in the first half.
The Magic switched up their defensive end with Georgia Tong earning the start at goal keeper and Erena Mikaere pushed further up to goal defence and Holly Fowler on the wing.
It was the Magic who was quick out of the blocks to score five straight goals, for a 5-1 lead, as goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou took the lead in the shooting circle landing all but one of her nine first quarter attempts.
But that was as big as the lead got throughout the first half as the Steel pegged back the difference through the efforts of experienced midcourters Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton, the southerners trailing 9-10 at the first break.
Midway through the second spell the Magic made major positional changes with Ariana Cable-Dixon coming off the bench to wing attack.
It pushed Whitney Souness into the unfamiliar role of centre, captain Sam Winders to the wing and Fowler and Mikaere into the defensive circle with Tong going to the bench.
The Magic edged ahead as Kelsey McPhee lifted her workload, despite being troubled by her right knee, but the side couldn’t shake the Steel in another tight 12 minutes of play.
The southerners struggled to find their rhythm up front as they continued to bed in the new attacking line, but their trademark patience with ball in hand was key in getting the ball to McCollin who was the dominant scorer.
Nothing separated the two teams at halftime, the scores locked 20-20, and at the resumption of play Souness returned to the wing attack role for the Magic and Cable-Dixon into the middle.
With just under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Steel introduced Halpenny into the 2020 ANZ Premiership while at the other end of the court, the Magic turned to the bench again with Khiarna Williams replacing McPhee.
The Steel opened up its biggest buffer to go into the fourth quarter with a 31-27 advantage and they injected fresh legs through Kendall Corkery who came on at wing defence.
But it was the Magic which came out with a spring in their step as they closed the gap to just one goal, Williams settling well in the shooting circle and growing in confidence.
The Steel however used all of their experience through the middle, along with the netball nous from Halpenny, to slowly regain their ascendancy for a five-goal buffer.
Magic coach Amigene Metcalfe was not done with the changes heading into the last five minutes of play with Jenna O’Sullivan coming on for Fowler on defence, enough to spark her side for one last assault on the scoreboard.
They again pulled the Steel to within one but were unable to make a vital turnover on the southerners final centre pass, netting the bonus point in the one-goal loss.