“THAT was just like a dream result.”
The words from Ascot Park Southern Steel captain Shannon Saunders after her team obliterated Good Oil Tactix 54-36 at its first ANZ Premiership hit out at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill on Sunday.
With five new signings this year, the first game of Steel’s season was all about seeing how new combinations would gel, how communication throughout the team would work, and how the newest players would handle the pressure of the cauldron, which is the Invercargill stadium, in front of a stoic home crowd.
Steel passed with flying colours.
After the game, Saunders put the win down to the hard work the team had put in, in preparation for the season.
“All the Dunedin girls have been in Invercargill for the last two weeks.”
The reason for the intense late preparation and the use of the team’s complete bench at preseason was because of the late arrival of English international and newly adopted Southlander, shooter George Fisher.
Fisher only joined the team three weeks ago, after spending two weeks in managed isolation.
For Fisher, the training started as soon as she quarantined in the hotel room thanks to a hefty schedule by Steel’s strengthening and conditioning coach Mike Jacobs.
“Mikey had me on the bike every day. I trained really, really hard when I was in there.”
Despite being against one of New Zealand’s top defenders in Tactix goal keeper Jane Watson, Fisher managed to outsmart and outshine and was ready to take advantage – when Watson gave an inch, Fisher took a mile.
It was obvious as her confidence grew throughout the game, Fisher, started to flourish.
Whereas she relied on the tried and true hold for the first part of the game, by the end she was moving more and venturing further afield from the goal circle.
What Fisher is hoping is this part of her game will develop even further.
“I’ve got some amazing coaches.
“I want to learn and learn and learn. Hopefully Jo’s (assistant coach Jo Morrison) hard work is paying off.”
With a shooting stat of 94% potting 46 goals from 49 attempts, if more ball can go her way, then she will be a force to be reckoned with.
It wasn’t just Fisher who impressed.
Goal attack Tiana Metuarau’s relentless and quick manoeuvering particularly at the top of the circle, made it hard for her counterpart Tactix’s Karin Burger to keep up, allowing plenty of opportunities for her attacking team-mates to easily get the ball through.
Goal keeper Tanesha Fafita came into her own from the second quarter, intercepting passes and picking up loose balls – something she continued throughout the game.
While there were a lot of positives will still be things for the team to work on.
A couple of times during the game, confidence gave way to a little bit of cockiness, getting the better of the southerners and allowing simple errors to creep in.
Steel will need to learn a bit more self discipline as it progresses through the premiership.
What is certain, is the standing ovation the crowd gave Steel after the 60 minutes was up was well deserved and the opener has given fans the hope for an exciting season ahead.