Steel defenders aim for new heights
Publish Date: Monday, 9 May 2022
Steel defenders aim for new heights


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Tackling lofty challenges has the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s defenders adding a variety of tactics into their game plan this season.

On paper, the Steel is arguably the shortest team in the ANZ Premiership. Shooter Saviour Tui rates as tallest in the line-up at 1.89m, but it’s well below the likes of Trident Homes Tactix counterpart Ellie Bird at 1.96m or MG Mystics Grace Nweke at 1.93m.

In the defence ranks, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit earns the honour at 1.84m, followed by Sarahpheinna Woulf at 1.82m and Kate Burley at 1.81m.

It’s not hard to do the maths and realise it equates to a mismatch against towering opponents but it doesn’t faze the southerners. In fact, Woulf is relishing the task.

“They are so tall and you have to jump to get ball off them so our d is just sticking to our strengths which is our physical approach and being really tough on them,” she said.

“Being on the body but also using our ability to change it up and come off the body to go for ball instead of trying to compete with them in the air because obviously we are shorter. So, throughout the game we need to constantly change it up and compete for the space.

“Sometimes you only get two out of 100 feeds they get but it’s about putting doubt in their mind.

The key thing for us is to create confusion so they don’t know what we’re going to do. And when that gain eventually comes, it feels great.”

As they continue to work through return to play protocols after Covid, Woulf and fellow defenders Kate Burley and Renee Savai’inaea were forced to watch Wednesday night’s game against the Tactix from the ILT Stadium Southland stands.

“It was very difficult and very nerve-wracking because you have a bit of FOMO not actually being out there. Our job was to make sure we were supporting hard out and lifting everyone up and bringing the energy.”

The trio benefitted from a different perspective.

“When you’re on the bench or in the crowd, you actually see the game a lot better. You can see what’s going to happen next and anticipate the plays – just your vision of the overall game is better,” Woulf said. 

“You can see more of the physical side. On court you can definitely feel it but you can see how physical everyone is actually being on the court.”

While it was a tough gig no taking the court, Woulf applauded the approach from Steel’s management team.

“They have been really looking after us to make sure when we do come back we are fit and healthy instead of chucking us in the deep end,” she said.

“We just have so many games coming up with a short turnaround in between so they are looking at the long game and making sure we are able to back up all those double ups which are coming.”

Steel next assignment is against the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in Dunedin on Monday night and Woulf was eager to see a dominant performance from the first whistle.

“We need to start tight. You can’t afford to give the Pulse a five-goal lead, or even more, because then they run with it. We don’t want a repeat of our last game when we had to fight back from 11 goals down to win … we just make it hard for ourselves so we have to make sure every start is strong,” she said.

“It all comes down to just trusting our process. We say that every game but it honestly is about trusting the things that we do.”

Tickets to the game are available online at

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