Regional | Netball

Steel choke in elimination final

Shooter Maia Wilson (Te Rarawa, Te Waiōhua) was the hero for the Northern Stars last night in Invercargill, as they upset the Southern Steel 56-53 in the ANZ Netball Premiership elimination final.

The result was the first loss in 17 games at ILT Stadium Southland for the Steel, who comfortably beat the Stars by 17 goals when they last met a week ago at the same venue.

To say this was a shock would be somewhat of an understatement. The Stars went into the match having lost seven of their last eight games, and the early stages of the game seemed to point to this one being no different as the Steel got out to a 5-1 lead.

However, the Stars managed to get themselves in the game and take a 15-14 lead into the first break. Wilson and fellow shooter Charlee Hodges got into their work, and were helped by a vintage performance from veteran Temepara Bailey in the midcourt.

Bailey, unbelievably still playing at an elite level at the age of 43, moved to wing attack in the second half to inject Holly Fowler at centre. The move paid off, as the Stars first pulled level then overtook the three-goal halftime deficit that the Steel had amassed.

By the end of the third quarter, the score stood at 43-41 in favour of the Stars. The last period was a nail-biter for both sets of fans, with the lead changing hands several times before the Stars closed out the game for a famously unlikely win.

The result will be a bitter one for the Steel. Everyone was picking them to move on to the final and seriously challenge the Central Pulse, whom they beat in their last meeting, but now they’ll be watching on as the Stars travel to Wellington on Monday instead.

On a personal note, it was a real statement from Wilson, who shot 43 from 45 attempts. She missed selection for the Silver Ferns last week, as did Stars defender Kayla Cullen.

Bailey’s long career now has one more game to go, she along with fellow veteran Leana du Bruin are due to retire at the end of the season.