Noeline Taurua is in a supremely happy space as she organises her Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic squad through pre-season training.
The successful coach, who guided her charges to the ANZ Championship title last year, says preparation to defend the title is way ahead of schedule, which is a positive omen for the Magic who open their 2013 campaign on March 24 against the Canterbury Tactix in Nelson.
"We started in November, but not as a full squad, which we got together on January 7," she said.
"We have had two weeks where the New Zealand players have gone into camp but they are back with us now.
"I am very happy where we are because we are way ahead of ourselves and have done a lot of work as far as team values and our structures from last year. So we are probably at least four to six weeks ahead.
"We have a recipe now of things that have worked really well for us and it is just about fine- tuning and tweaking that stuff so that we incorporate some of the new girls coming in."
Taurua has noticed a huge difference around the Magic camp and with players' attitudes now they are defending champions.
"We have actually talked about it and said we are sort of free now, so to speak, as we have had this bogey on our back for so long.
"Now we are champions we are free to see how far we can push each other, what we want our product to be, and it has left a big question mark for us which is exciting and very positive.
"We are not going out there to defend but going out there to win and making sure we are in the right frame of mind, and not being comfortable and resting on our laurels.
"The communication has been about moving forward and how we can be better than last year."
The cancellation of last year's highly successful pre-season tournament held at Mount Maunganui's ASB Arena, that featured all 10 teams, did put a dent in the Magic's preparation.
Attitude and skill execution will be key targets when they put their form to the test in three warm-up games this week.
They meet the Northern Mystics in Auckland tonight before a mini-camp in New Plymouth, where they meet the Central Pulse on Saturday and the Australian Institute of Sport on Sunday.
"I'm looking forward to these games and it will be good to see how close or how far we are and also to test some of the stuff we've been working on to see if it actually works," Taurua said.
"It's a good testing time, provides the opportunity to get individuals out there to see where they are at and a chance to look at a variety of combinations."
With Tanya Dearns coming in as assistant coach, there have been some new strategies put in place at the defensive end of the court from the former international, which Taurua hopes to see replicated during the warm-up matches.
All 14 players will get an equal share of court time across the three games, giving Taurua and Dearns the opportunity to size up a variety of combinations.