The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel enjoyed the luxury of giving all players court-time after delivering an emphatic season-opening 71-54 win over the Trident Homes Tactix in Christchurch on Sunday.

The Steel stunned their neighbours with a comprehensive outing, turning the screws in the second half, when leading by five, to completely shut the Tactix out of the game.

That meant the unusual sight of internationals Shannon Saunders and George Fisher alongside the experienced Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit watching from the bench for the second half of the final stanza, and allowing the lesser experienced Sarahpheinna Woulf and Ali Wilshier to see out the match.

Looking well-tuned from the get-go, a telling third quarter pushed the Steel into new and uncatchable territory as the Tactix found few answers and unable to lift their intent as the goal difference mounted.

It was all the Steel through the opening exchanges, the southerners clicking from the outset with their ball movement through court and accuracy under the hoop.

Off-season recruit Saviour Tui made the best of starts to score the opening three goals for the Steel as she proved the perfect foil for impressive and energetic shooting import George Fisher. The pair started like a well-oiled machine, slick movement adding the polish to help build an early buffer.

At the other end, Te Paea Selby-Rickit showed some fine touches with her shooter-to-shooter interaction with Ellie Bird. The home side showed more resolve on attack as the quarter went deeper while producing improved starch on defence.

However, it was the Steel who completed the high-scoring first quarter with the all accolades when leading 19-13, Tui proving the difference with her eight shots from nine attempts in a shared shooting load in the circle.

The Tactix couldn’t have asked for a better start on the resumption, applying extra defensive heat while there was improved urgency and connection on attack.

The home side closed the gap before a five-goal unanswered streak pushed the Steel back into prime position. That was well-aided by the vast experience of defender Selby-Rickit with her ability to read play and snap up turnover opportunities.
Young shooter Hannah Glen replaced Bird midway through as the Tactix looked to mix up their attacking options. Her presence coinciding with another Tactix surge while home side defender Karin Burger picked off some timely turnovers.

Regrouping, the Steel halted the Tactix momentum to maintain their buffer when going into halftime with a handy 32-27 lead.

The Steel snuffed out any thoughts of a Tactix comeback when delivering a match-defining third quarter. Scoring the first five goals of the stanza set the Steel on their way to a rollicking high-scoring and dominant 15 minutes.

With Bird returning under the hoop for the Tactix, nothing went right for the red-and-blacks, the Steel full of purpose in all areas of the court with none shining brighter than Fisher. Immaculate with her movement, ability to take awkward ball and high return percentage, the England international helped the Steel out-score their opponents by nearly two goals to one as they posted 23 goals for the quarter.

After being sidelined with serious injury through all of last season, shooter Georgia Heffernan took over from Tui during the quarter with seamless efficiency as the Steel bolted out to a 55-38 lead at three-quarter time.