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Steel resolve faces stern test

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/07/2016 Cathy Walshe

Southern Steel's goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is key to their chances against the Firebirds. © Mead Norton/Getty Images Southern Steel's goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is key to their chances against the Firebirds. Southern Steel's ability to turn the aftermath of last week's possum-in-the-headlights performance into a championship-winning mentality will be sorely tested against the Queensland Firebirds on Sunday.

Steel coach Noeline Taurua's team fell to pieces in the first quarter of the trans-Tasman netball league's New Zealand conference final in Invercargill, battling back over the remaining 45 minutes only to fall short 57-59.

They now travel to Brisbane to meet the defending champion Firebirds at home, with the winner progressing through to next week's grand final.

Taurua is confident her team will learn from last Sunday's loss - the Steel's first of the season.

"We were very disjointed, particularly in our defence end," she told NZ Newswire.

"It created disconnection, even in our attacking end, and a bit of panic at times."

The Steel's midcourt was rattled, and the usually fluent and reliable feed into shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid disappeared.

Down by as much as 12 late in the second quarter, the Steel fought back to draw even with six minutes remaining. They couldn't hold on for the win, but Taurua is hopeful they can replicate that tenacity.

"It wasn't the prettiest, but we were still able to get close enough to be able to win it," she said.

"There are negatives, because we didn't win the game, but there are huge positives and we need to remain confident."

Last time the two teams met, back in round 11, the Steel cruised to a deceptively flattering 66-51 victory.

But Taurua has long ago dismissed that result as an anomaly, with the absence of key defenders Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman playing a major role.

Shooter Romelda Aiken was shifted to the other end of the court at goal keep for half the game in a bid to shut down fellow Jamaican Fowler-Reid, and the resulting unfamiliar combinations just never fired.

"Obviously they'll be playing their normal starting seven," Taurua said.

"They're a fantastic team, and against the Swifts they showed why they're ANZ champions and have the potential to win again."

The Firebirds downed the Swifts 63-52 to win the Australian conference final, and Taurua says that performance shows the task facing her team.

"But I'm excited by the opportunities that present - we must be at odds of a million to one.

"It's a great tester for us - an opportunity to play the best in the competition and see how much we've actually learnt from last week."

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