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Sparks to fly with Southern Steel

The Adelaide Thunderbirds opening home match of the ANZ Championship will be against the team whose region has taken out seven of the ten of New Zealand`s National Bank Cup titles.

Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel – based at Invercargill in the deep south of New Zealand’s South Island – brings a wealth of netball talent to town for its game at 1pm on Sunday.

But Adelaide – having come home 2-1 from what everyone in the competition agrees was the toughest of opening draws – is pumped and ready, following its one-goal thriller against nemesis Melbourne Vixens.

Formerly the Melbourne Phoenix and Kestrels, the Vixens are headed by national captain and goalie Sharelle McMahon and are the Australian team to beat on most immediate history.

Which, as a delighted Adelaide Thunderbirds coach Jane Woodlands says, her team did.

“We jumped to a 12-8 lead in the first quarter and then it was a toe-to-toe fight with only one goal difference in the next two quarters and we held them off in the last quarter,” Woodlands says.

“It was a great win but it was also a gutsy win with everyone in the team contributing,” she says.

“If anyone wondered just how strong and determined Adelaide is, we have answered the question.”

But the sheer depth of talent in the new trans-Tasman competition means there will be no rest just because the team has managed a big win.

Southern Steel is packed with Silver Fern players, and future players.

And it has Megan Dehn. Better known to most fans in Australia as Megan Anderson who played the 30-plus games for Australia.

Originally named with the NSWSwifts, she crossed the Tasman and will almost certainly have a point to prove when back in front of Australian crowds. She will be joined by Kiwi Megan Hutton, who has returned to the Steel after a stint in the UK Superleague, and both will be called on to lead some of the younger charges in the team.

Woodlands says her side is excited about finally getting a home game. Excited to have a lot of support for a change and to also provide a demonstration of just how much the overall standard of the competition has lifted this year.

“We think people will be impressed that every game, not just some games, will be hard fought and close, there are no walkovers likely to be had in this competition,” Woodlands says.

“And we want as many people as possible to be at ETSA Park on Sunday for our first home game to share the experience and show their support for the team” she says.

In the pre-season tournament in Sydney, the under-gunned Steel squad won five of its eight matches – against Melbourne, SKOPE Tactix, Queensland, West Coast and Suzuki Pulse.

The Steel players can also look to their own impressive leadership group for guidance with the likes of coach Robyn Broughton and Southern Steel legend Donna Wilkins combining to make a dominant coaching force in the league.

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