Netball: Magic key to showdown: Get smart

Buoyed by their latest thrilling outing, captain Laura Langman knows the Kia Magic will need to find another gear for tomorrow's ANZ Championship netball minor semifinal against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton.

It's make-or-break time for this pair, who have experienced contrasting fortunes going into the sudden-death contest.

The Magic squandered a full half of netball before hitting their straps with a sizzling second term to achieve the required target of goals for and against to pip the Firebirds for third in the final standings and the prize of hosting the minor semifinal.

On the other hand, the Firebirds were well placed to seal second spot before being tipped up by a late-charging Adelaide Thunderbirds, the Magic's decisive scoreline adding to their woes when they found themselves drop ping to fourth.

``I can imagine they're gutted,'' Langman said.

``They're a quality side and I think they were disap pointed to go down to us in the round robin.

``They will have done their homework, so it'll be physical, it'll be fast and we're going to have to be very smart against them be cause they've got some extremely technically savvy management in there who will pinpoint things that aren't going exactly right in our game and really try and capitalise.

``So, this week is all about a week of smarts for us.''

The extra burden of knowing exactly what was required in their latest outing seemed to play havoc with the Magic early on against the Northern Mystics, highlighted by a steady stream of errors.

``We did show a lot of character and what was great was the ability to be able to flick the switch and turn it on when we needed to,'' Langman said.

``However, it was a bit of a double-edged sword and what's concerning is we're not coming out of the blocks very well and that's something we'll have to look at.

``Overall, I think we're in a pretty good space, our confidence is good. There's no real negatives but there's some obvious creases we need to iron out before we can really stake our claim.

``I think 95 per cent of what we do is very good but there's a few little chinks that are not major but we need to address them and address them fast to ensure that we can produce that 60 minutes of magic netball.''

The bonus of home advantage could not be ignored but at the same time it would be unwise to be too reliant on it.

``The goal first and foremost was get in the top four but it's certainly fantastic to get a home semi in terms of a little less travel when the turnaround is quite sharp,'' Langman said.

``It just gives us another night at home, another day of recovery to really sharpen up because we know that top-four play-offs is a step up and you need four quarters of quality netball, not half a game.

``It's also great to have another opportunity to play in familiar surroundings and in front of our own supporters.''

While coach Noeline Taurua, in her last campaign with the Magic, admitted to a raft of emotions following a special presentation after the Mystics' match on her home town court in Tauranga, it's to be business as usual for the players

. ``Recently most of us have largely forgotten that Noel is not coming back next year,'' Langman said.

``We got a reminder at the presentation but, at the moment, we're so absorbed and focused on where we want to go and how we want to get there, that we've just about forgotten that our soldier in the front there is not going to be back, so we probably have parked it.

``But I speak for all of us when I say that we don't want the season to end any time soon.''

- Hamilton News

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