Shock Steel debut for Kendall McMinn
Kendall McMinn was at home making herself some toast just hours before tonight’s Southern Steel game against the Mystics when the phone call came which would end with her making her ANZ Premiership debut.
“It was about 5pm, I heard the phone ring and I saw it was Curly (coach Reinga Bloxham),” McMinn said.
“I rang back and said hello - all I was thinking was that they wanted me to be the mascot because I’d said that I would do it. She asked what I was doing, I said I was making some toast and she asked if I wanted to come and sit on the bench. I was pretty stoked.”
With Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel skipper Wendy Frew not yet able to play a full game as she recovers from her Achilles tendon injury and Dani Gray ruled out of the game with a fever, McMinn made her Premiership debut at the start of the final quarter.
The Steel held a four goal advantage at the time, which they then stretched out to eight goals before some late jitters caused palpitations in the crowd. They would eventually win 56-52.
With no time before the game to get nervous, and just a quick word of warning before she replaced Frew, McMinn’s debut went by in a blur.
“I never thought I was going to go on. I’m so privileged and happy to be asked. I didn’t have much time to think, it was really fast, maybe the fastest quarter I’ve ever played. Everyone was so hungry, we were very busy.”
McMinn is a former New Zealand secondary schools and New Zealand under 21 player, a member of the South Beko team and an official training partner with the Steel.
However, much of her sporting focus in recent times has been on her debut in the boxing ring, fighting in the charity fundraiser Fight For Kidz just a few weeks ago at the same ILT Stadium Southland venue.
McMinn impressed there too, named the best fighter on the night and suggesting she might continue in the fight game.
“It was a bit different to be in the ring to being on the netball court, but it was almost as physical as a boxing match. My trainer has put a lot of time into me and he’s asked if I would give it a go for him. I don’t know if boxing is a sport I thought I would ever go into but I’d love to give back to him.”
It was the Mystics’ strongest performance of the ANZ Premiership so far – with standout performances from Bailey Mes, scoring 100 percent of her 31 attempts at goal, and Phoenix Karaka stealing six intercepts at goal keep.
But the visitors just ran short in the last 15 minutes, and the seasoned Steel line-up stayed steady and composed to take charge in the final quarter.
A calm start by Mes at goal shoot gave the Mystics an early confidence boost. But a little overenthusiastic passing into the circle, and the long reach of Steel defender Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, stopped the Mystics from making a break on the scoreboard.
The Steel’s lofty shooter Jen O’Connell was put to the test by Karaka, who was 7cm shorter but used her elevation to great effect. But still, the young O’Connell held her nerve.
The home side had the narrowest of leads, 15-14, at the first break, but midway through the quarter the Mystics took the lead through some sharp defence by the international trio of Karaka, Anna Harrison and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson.
All the while the Steel kept in the game, through some solid midcourt work from Shannon Francois and Wendy Frew, and a buzzer beater from O’Connell gave the home side the edge again, 29-28, at halftime.
The Mystics made a change to their shooting arsenal, with Tera-Maria Amani coming in at goal shoot and Mes moving to goal attack. While they settled into a rhythm, the Steel sneaked out to a three-goal lead, but it was still not decisive.
With the sides locked at 38-all with four minutes of the third quarter remaining, the Steel finally stepped up a gear and snatched a 43-39 lead. Goal keep Courtney Elliott, a late addition to the Steel squad this season, certainly made her presence felt, rattling the Mystics attack in the final stanza.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit’s departure from the court almost looked a little premature, as the Mystics closed to within three in the final minute to snatch a bonus point. But again, the Steel stood strong before a relieved Stadium Southland crowd.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 56
SKYCITY Mystics: 52
Champion Data Match Centre:
Shooting Stats - Steel:
O'Connell: 37/42 88%
Selby-Rickit: 19/24 79%
Shooting Stats - Mystics :
Mes: 31/31 100%
Hume: 15/24 63%
Amani: 6/7 86%
MVP: Shannon Francois (Steel)