THE undefeated start to the Tarsha Gale season for Daniel Lacey’s Illawarra Steelers is over, after being comprehensively defeated by the Crounlla-Sutherland Sharks.
In the final home and away game of the season and with the minor premiership on the line, the Steelers fell 70-12 at WIN Stadium – seeing them finished the regular season in second position.
“We didn’t put as much importance on the match as we should have – we saw it more as a litmus test against one of the top teams in the competition, than a play-off for first spot,” Lacey said.
“That was reflected in our play, producing probably our worst game of the year, which included a 56 per cent completion rate.
“In contrast, the Sharks scored on four of their first six sets, to be up 28-nil, a quarter of the way through the match.
“It obviously put us behind the eight ball and we never recovered.”
While he admits his team had some soul-searching to do after the match, they have all moved on and put that loss behind them.
”After the match, the Dragons let us use their video room, which we talked about the loss and got it out of our systems,” he said.
“It’s something we needed to do, otherwise it would have lingered going into finals.
“But as I said to the girls, we have played nine tough rounds of football to get where we are now and we can’t let one slip-up change that.
“Realistically, you shouldn’t need any more motivation to play finals football – especially with the winner getting a week off and moving to within one game of the grand final.
“We are one of only two teams that haven’t had a bye – we would take the week off with open arms.”
Their opponents this Sunday at Campbelltown Stadium , from 11.30am, are the third-placed Wests Tigers – the only side Lacey’s troops haven’t played this season.
“From what I’ve seen of them, they are a very skillful side, who run a lot through Emily Curtain – who is one of the smartest footballers in the competition,” he said.
“Obviously we need to keep an eye on her at all times but really, we just need to focus on ourselves.
“We need to go back to what was working so well for us, which was getting to our structures and completing our sets.
“If we can do this, it will allow us to play that free-flowing football we have become renowned for.
“We’re not going to change anything because of one loss to the competition’s benchmark side.
“We know our systems work – it’s just about dealing with pressure better.
“I know all the girls are looking forward to the challenge of taking their games to another level.”
Lacey’s side, who will most likely be without the services of Keely Davis and Rhiannon Brown (Bomaderry), includes Group Seven products Bronte Girdler (Stingrays), Abbey Montgomery (Milton-Ulladulla), Chantelle Newman (Milton-Ulladulla) and Hannah England (Milton-Ulladulla).
“I’m proud of the way the girls have adjusted to the sides injuries, with them all happy to embrace a greater role for the good of the team – which is what it’s all about,” he said.
“The girls can’t wait for Sunday – they have earned the right to be in this match and I’m sure they will prove it on the day.”
Steelers’ Tarsha Gale squad: Lilly-Rose Bennett, Mikayla Kidd, Maddison Weatherall, Eleni Amone, Michaela Scutts, Bronte Girdler, Abby Holmes, Hannah England, Keeley Davis (c), Chantelle Newman, Abbey Montgomery, Leanne Jackson, Shannon Scutts, Emily Andrews, Hannah Byron, Dakotah Mannering, Taneisha Roberts and Rhiannon Brown.