Netball: Title at last looks a realistic goal


Just as in death and taxes, an Australian winner of the transtasman league seemed a certainty.

The first four years of the competition have produced four different winners - all from the other side of the Tasman.

While the Magic and Mystics have made grand finals (two in the Magic's case), the reality is neither threatened to win the ultimate match.

But with the third-placed Magic the form team heading into the finals and the unpredictable Mystics always a dangerous proposition, many are tipping this will be the year the drought ends.

Since their winless opening month, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side have racked up nine straight wins - the longest winning run of any team this season and a franchise record.

"When you think about how far we've actually come from 10 weeks ago and we made it to the finals without having to rely on other results going our way, it's quite amazing really," Magic coach Noeline Taurua said.

"We can take a lot out of our performances,"

Over the past three weeks they have been impressive, knocking off heavyweights the Mystics, Thunderbirds and Firebirds, the latter two by hefty margins.

The wins showed the Magic's new patient, controlled style can hold up against some of the top defensive combinations.

"We've been put under a lot of pressure defensively, and our structures have held up a lot better than in the past," Taurua said. "We're showing much better discipline on attack and that's the pleasing thing for me."

The Mystics are a much tougher side to get a gauge on.

They have had a typically up-and-down season, making the top four without setting the competition alight - their win over the Vixens in Melbourne the exception. This weekend they return to take on the minor premiers at home.

Rolling the Vixens and securing a home grand final is seen as key to wresting the crown.

Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu said her side would be doing everything they could to bring the grand final to Auckland.

" You look back and every year the team that has won the major semifinal has gone on to win the competition.

"So that's the path we are aiming to take as well," said Latu. "It's nice to know we have that extra life, but we need to push that to one side. Last year it was do or die and that helped us play some of our best netball. We need to go into this game thinking the same way."

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