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Southern Steel leading way for Kiwis in trans-Tasman netball competition

ABC GrandstandABC Grandstand 5/05/2016

Wendy Frew and Jamie-Lee Price battle for the ball © Mead Norton / Getty Images Wendy Frew and Jamie-Lee Price battle for the ball Last year, the Southern Steel won just three of their trans-Tasman competition games - this year, they are undefeated heading into round six.

With rumours of an Australia-New Zealand split still circling, the Steel are defying suggestions that Kiwi sides aren't able to match their rivals across the ditch.

They sit on top of the New Zealand conference ladder, and while they have been given a lucky draw, Saturday's performance has established the Steel as serious contenders.

They played their first game against an Australian side and not only beat the West Coast Fever, but recorded their highest score in history.

The second quarter was defining for the Invercargill team, running off court at half-time ten goals up - a lead sizable enough to hold-off a Fever comeback.

Incoming coach Noeline Taurua told Grandstand one of the big changes she has been trying to implement is a shift towards a harder-nosed, performance-based culture.

"Gradually over the weeks we've slowly seen some of the benefits of what we're doing behind the scenes in training and we do have more of a hard edge," she said.

"We really want to put the heat on ourselves and push for top four of both New Zealand and Australian franchises."

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is dominating the scoring and rebounds for the Steel © Getty Images / Mead Norton Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is dominating the scoring and rebounds for the Steel Their attacking unit has been particularly impressive, with Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid leading the way with the most amount of goals so far in the competition.

Also currently claiming the second highest total for rebounds, Fowler-Reid's strong and consistent follow-ups make a huge difference.

"If we're missing any shots, whether its our goal attack or goal shooter, we're going to get those rebounds so we have effectively two opportunities to get one shot," Taurua said.

Another Steel player high on the statistics table is wing attack Gina Crampton, who has received the most centre passes across the trans-Tasman.

Crampton's instinct makes her a hard target for opposing teams, intuitively knowing when to drive into the circle or play an easy pass and back herself.

"I think every quarter we've played she's had a different opposition and that credits her and what's she's actually doing out on court," Taurua said.

While there is work to be done at the defence end, the Steel's current form suggests New Zealand will be able to maintain its competitive level should this be the last year of the competition.

While Taurua would be disappointed by such an outcome, she believes the community and regional backing would actually strengthen the sport nationwide.

"Prior to [the trans-Tasman comp] we had really strong franchises throughout the country and if anything we were probably a bit closer competitively than what we currently are," she said.

The Steel venture to Australia for the first time this year on Sunday, where they will play the Adelaide Thunderbirds - currently none from five.

And while the odds seem to be in their favour, Taumua is taking no precautions with travel protocol and preparation.

"The Thunderbirds have a very strong history and a lot of players that know what it's like to win."

"So we won't be taking them lightly and if we have a good product on court, at the end of the day, we'll know."

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