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Poi hits 100 in Tactix victory over Steel

Kimiora Poi Mainland Tactix netball
Kimiora Poi made her 100th netball national league appearance. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ

Led by new centurion Kimiora Poi, the Mainland Tactix have subdued an injury-stricken Southern Steel 52-35 in the first South Island Derby of the 2024 ANZ Premiership.

There were debuts and milestones across the court, with the most notable Tactix captain Poi notching up her 100th national league game in their opening match of the season at Christchurch’s Wolfbrook Arena.

The Steel’s losing streak stretched out to 18 games, as their injury woes continued – without their former captain Shannon Saunders (knee), and their current captain Kate Heffernan only playing the first half (ankle).  

While the Tactix, who finished fourth last season, had patches of dominant play, particularly in the first 30 minutes, they showed they have work to do if they are to win their first Premiership title.

But to their credit, they also took advantage of the new tactical change rule and made more than 20 positional switches during the match.

Although it was a nervous start for both sides, the Steel had fewer answers to disrupt a stronger Tactix attack. With Poi directing play into shooters Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Jess Allan (making her debut for the Mainland side), they quickly established a 7-1 lead.

A Steel shooting combination light on national league experience, Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan, found it tough getting their hands to ball snapped up by the most-practiced defensive pairing in the competition, Jane Watson and Karin Burger (the match MVP who ended the game with four intercepts).

The 11-4 scoreline at the first break was a double-blow to the Steel – their lowest opening quarter score in their national league history.

Tactix stalwart Ellie Bird – called into her old side as injury cover – took the court at the start of the second spell, and to the delight of her fans in the crowd, also racked up her 100th Premiership game. She had no trouble getting back to her old shooting ways, ending up with 24 from 30 attempts.

The Steel were almost caught static on attack, making it easier for the Tactix to cut off any flow. When they brought on young wing attack Grace Southby they gained some fluidity.

But still Burger and Watson too often anticipated their movements, and the home side led 25-14 at halftime.

The Steel finally fell into a rhythm on attack in the third quarter, and their defence, anchored by the seasoned Abby Lawson (nee Erwood) and debutant South African international Jeanté Strydom, made it more complex for the Tactix to work the ball into the circle.

But the Tactix pulled away again just before the spell ended, and went into the final 15 minutes up 39-25.

Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek took the opportunity to bring on new blood, with young Australian shooter Charlie Bell – called over from the Sunshine Coast to cover for the injured Aliyah Dunn – taking the court; the 1.96m goal shoot pairing up Selby-Rickit for a brief appearance.

Neither side’s shooting statistics were truly impressive – the Steel on 85 percent, and the Tactix 74 percent ­– and Namana’s contribution of 22 from 25 (88 percent) was the most solid individual performance under the hoop.  

Mainland Tactix 52 (Ellie Bird 24/30, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 21/29, Jess Allan 5/8, Charlie Bell 2/3) Southern Steel 35 (Grace Namana 22/25, Georgia Heffernan 11/14, Martina Salmon 2/2). 1Q: 11-4, HT: 25-14, 3Q: 39-25


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