Netball: Magic make winning start

By Dana Johannsen

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic made it two from two on the opening day of the ANZ Championship pre-season tournament in Tauranga yesterday, getting their bid to win their home event off to the best possible start.

While most teams claim the results of this weekend's tournament are of no consequence, Magic coach Noeline Taurua boldly stated prior to the weekend that her team were in it to win it.

That intention was backed up by her players, with the Magic displaying strong intensity on day one of the three-day event involving all 10 transtasman franchises.

The Magic eased past the Southern Steel 40-30 in their opening hit-out and returned to the court three hours later to repeat the dose against the NSW Swifts, but there were some nervous moments for the home crowd packed in to the new TECT Arena.

The Magic were leading comfortably mid-way through the final before an injury time confusion saw Irene van Dyk forced to leave the court after calling an injury time-out. Without their key strike weapon, the Magic attack faltered and the Swifts nearly snuck through to steal the match, before a goal to Jessica Waitapu in the final 30 seconds sealed the result for the Magic.

Last year's beaten finalists the Northern Mystics had an indifferent start to their tournament, just scraping past the Canterbury Tactix in their early fixture, before going down to the Melbourne Vixens.

Unlike other teams who experimented wildly with their line-ups yesterday, Vixens coach Julie Hoornweg made only sparing changes throughout the match, and stuck with her all-star defensive line-up of Geva Mentor, Bianca Chatfield and Julie Corletto for all four quarters.

Along with the Vixens, several other Australian sides were looking particularly dangerous on the opening day of the tournament.

Reigning premiers the Queensland Firebirds proved they have lost little momentum in the off-season, opening the tournament with a dominant 53-36 win over the Southern Steel.

It was the Steel's second loss of the day after going down to the Magic in the early game.

Despite being without captain Natalie von Bertouch and key midcourter Renae Hallinan, the Adelaide Thunderbirds were also untroubled on the opening day, toppling the Pulse 41-32.

With former Australian coach Norma Plummer at the helm, the West Coast Fever, traditionally the weakest team from across the Tasman, are also looking sharp. The new-look Fever line-up impressed in their first hit-out against the NSW Swifts yesterday. The Fever scored the opening four goals and never looked back from there, toppling the Swifts 40-33.

Plummer took up the job in Perth after stepping down as coach of the Diamonds following their world championships victory in Singapore, and has gone about overhauling the Fever line-up, signing a several young, up and coming stars along with a wily veteran in shooter Catherine Cox.

Results day one:

Mystics 48 Tactix 46, Magic 40 Steel 30, Fever 40 Swifts 33, Thunderbirds 41 Pulse 32, Vixens 48 Mystics 40, Firebirds 53 Steel 36, Magic 43 Swifts 41.

- NZ Herald

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