Netball: George set to play for Mystics

By Dana Johannsen

Midcourt dynamo Temepara George looks set to be unveiled today as the Northern Mystics' marquee player for next year's inaugural transtasman league.

The announcement is likely despite franchises being unable to sign team members until a players association has been set up.

Huge interest has surrounded where George will play next year after she moved to Townsville in August to be with league playing partner Sione Faumuina and made herself unavailable for the Silver Ferns' World Championship campaign.

George was believed to be looking at playing opportunities for Queensland but Mystics coach Yvonne Willering, whom George played under at the Force, appears to have lured the star centre back.

While George will be a huge boost to the Auckland team, which combines the Diamonds and Force National Bank Cup franchises, they look unlikely to retain all their stars from the region.

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Tutaia is being lined up to head south to the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, where she will play alongside national teammate Irene van Dyk.

Willering said Tutaia had indicated she had been looking at other options.

"She has been very open about that," she said.

"We have a fair idea of who'scoming, who's going but we'rein a position where nothing is final until the contracts are sorted."

Magic coach Noeline Taurua confirmed the franchise was in talks with the Ferns star.

"For the last couple of years we have needed a goal-attack so we had talks with not only Maria for a while."

With the Waikato franchise expected to retain their Ferns players from the National Bank Cup, Tutaia will join an impressive looking line-up that includes van Dyk, Laura Langman, Joline Henry and Casey Williams.

Of the Magic's key players from last season, former Ferns skipper Anna Stanley is the only player unlikely to be back. The gap in the midcourt is expected to be filled by veteran and former captain Amigene Metcalfe, who took time away from the sport for the birth of her second child.

"What we try and do is look to the key players who have been in the Magic franchise and try and keep them and then look to fill the gaps. We're looking good, but it's not until players sign the dotted line before I feel comfortable," Taurua said.

For the Mystics, the loss of Tutaia could be offset by the potential signing of promising youngster Jade Topia, who has been plying her trade with the Canterbury Flames for the last few seasons.

The Wellington-based Central Pulse also look to have been very active with their recruitment.

Lofty shooter Daneka Wipiiti, who is a member of the wider New Zealand squad, has been targeted by the franchise, while the Pulse are also believed to be on the hunt for a top-class defender.

Taurua said most of the top players had already decided where they were headed and the franchises were waiting for the collective contracts to be sorted out with the players association.

"We're ready, we're just waiting for the word.

"The top players roughly know where they're going to be going to. What they're waiting for is to make sure what the franchises are promising is actually written down."

She said it was the next level down that was the most affected by the delays with the players association.

"It's the fringe players that are still up in the air.

"You just really want to be able to add some certainty for those players so they know where they're going to be if they have to relocate."

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