Magic ready for southern showdown

By Peter White

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KEY PLAYER: England international Jo Harten has been in good form ahead of Sunday's final against Southern Steel. PHOTO/FILE A_090516joanneharten2
KEY PLAYER: England international Jo Harten has been in good form ahead of Sunday's final against Southern Steel. PHOTO/FILE A_090516joanneharten2

Southern Steel hold the home advantage and favourite's tag heading into tomorrow's New Zealand Conference final at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill from 4pm.

But that means nothing to the Cold Power Magic players.

Star goal shoot and English international Jo Harten, 27, says they love taking on the Steel in their home fortress.

"It is actually really exciting. It will be a great reward for the challenging season we have had.

"The crowd go crazy when their team is up and you know when you are doing a good job because the crowd are pretty much silent.

"You want to go down there and soak it all up.

"This is why we play, in front of passionate fans in a passionate crowd.

"They have got everything to lose in a sense and we have everything to gain.

"It is going to be a really exciting match-up down there. I think we can just attack it head on and have no fears."

Steel have won both previous games between the sides this season.

Harten says the Magic finally have a fully fit squad to pick from.

"We have got 11 players fit and raring to go whereas the last time we met we were struggling with a few injuries and our combinations weren't quite there.

"It is going to be a tough challenge and they are really formidable in both attack and defence.

"It really is about attacking this game with whoever is out on the court giving 100 per cent.

"I think it is going to be about consistency for us."

Magic qualified for tomorrow's New Zealand final by beating the Mystics last weekend in easily their best performance of the season.

"I suppose it was a turning point for us," Harten said.

"We had been in the hunt for some games over the past few weeks and had close matches and winning by one and that kind of thing.

"So to put in a performance against a really aggressive team that threw everything at us and come away with a 16 goal victory was actually quite impressive.

"It will stand us in good stead in the final."

Harten had a slow start to the season along with her team mates as the Magic lost their opening five games.

But she has improved her shooting statistics to 424 goals at an 84 per cent success ratio this season.

She admits her form has been "very up and down".

"I am a shooter so it is consistent good performances in the goal circle but I am happy where I am heading as an individual and I am happy with the combination I am playing within."

The winner of Sunday's match becomes the New Zealand Conference champions and will host a semifinal next weekend against the second-placed Australian team.

The loser will travel to Australia to play the winner of the Australian Conference.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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