Whether it’s less stressful shooting a match-winning goal or coaching from the bench, the jury is still out on that one for Jo Morrison.
What she does know is Monday’s exhilarating extra-time victory against the Te Wānaga o Raukawa Pulse in Wellington rates as one she won’t forget.
Morrison was at the helm of the Steel after head coach Reinga Bloxham was ruled out due to Covid and had the best seat in the house to watch the team fight back from an 11-goal deficit to force the game into extra time and snatch a 66-63 win.
“It was certainly one I’ll never forget that’s for sure,” she said.
It sparked nostalgic vibes from Morrison’s own playing days with the Steel’s predecessor the Otago Rebels.
“That’s the one thing I remember about being in the Rebels. We never panicked when we were down, we just kept going no matter what,” she said.
“Our girls just did such a great job. They stuck to their guns and it was a real grind out. They trusted each other and once they got that connection, it clicked and they were off.
“Anything can happen in a game of netball. You can turn a game in a quarter. You are never out of it and you can find a way if you want to. I think that game, with the culture we have, has set us up so well going forward. Now we know when we’re in that sticky situation, we just have to grind it out and find a way and that is key.”
Postponed games, cancelled flights and four key personnel struck with Covid wasn’t exactly ideal heading into the game but the team took it all in their stride.
“We had our challenges but everything went really well because we have such good structures and processes in place. It was a matter of just keeping it the same so the players didn’t really see too much difference apart from the voices they were hearing.”
Steel was on the backfoot until the dying stages of the encounter.
“After the first five minutes we were down 8-1 and I was ‘holy moly’ … Pulse came out hot and we just took a while to settle,” Morrison said.
“I was more worried at the start of the game when we just couldn’t find our way. When it got to the crunch I felt really calm. That’s the fantastic thing about being in a great team … you have faith you will find a way through the adversity. It did bring back synergy with the Rebels for me. I knew once we clicked we were going to be sweet.
“When it was all locked up, George Fisher actually said ‘guys, this is meant to happen. This is exactly where we want to be right now. We’ve had such a crazy time with games cancelled, flights cancelled, being stuck in Rotorua – everything has been against us since we left home but this is happening now so let’s go for it’. It was a great thing to say and everyone lifted again.”
“It came down to basics. The players were saying ‘right, what else have you got for us?’ But it was a case of ‘just do your job. I’m not going to give you 20 new things to do, just do your job’. It’s a simple game. Georgie (Salter) always said ‘just pass and catch and shoot, that’s all it is’ and she was right.
Morrison knows the tenacity shown would have earned approval from legendary coach Georgie Salter, who passed away in 2018.
“I think Georgie would have had a bit more colourful language on the side line than me at the start and she might have thrown her book down a couple of times … but I think she would have been immensely proud of that southern grit and belief. That’s what we are known for and made of down here and it was an amazing fightback,” she said.
“When I’m reflecting on a game, I do check myself sometimes and think ‘oh my, that’s so Georgie’ so she is certainly on my shoulder.
“When you’re in the heat of the moment you just have to trust your gut. As a player, I just wanted to look over and see calmness and encouragement rather than freaked out sidelines and I think our bench was amazing in that respect. They just never stopped – it sounded like we had a crowd in there and there was just five of us on the bench.”
“It was such a massive team effort and I just guided them through. We have to trust our processes and, while that sounds so boring, there is no magic formula. It’s just about doing each of them to the best that we can.”
Steel’s next assignment is the coveted Georgie Salter Memorial game against the defending champion MG Mystics at ILT Stadium Southland on Monday night.
“The girls will be fired up. They are getting closer and last time we played them we lessened that gap further. It’s just those connections we need to keep building on,” Morrison said.
“And the silver lining out of the Magic game getting cancelled is that Shannon’s 150th is now at home so that’s cool.”
With New Zealand moving into the orange setting, the stadium will finally swing open its doors to crowds.
Steel marketing manager Carla O’Meara was eager to see the stands packed with fans.
“This is our Steel fortress because of the energy our passionate fans bring and we are excited to welcome them back as our not-so-secret weapon,” she said.
Tickets are on sale now at www.ticketek.co.nz.
For further information, contact:
021 292 1660