The Magic's back for Casey Williams.
After a slow start to the transtasman league season as she battled her way back from ankle surgery in the off-season, the Silver Ferns captain was back to her dominant best in the Magic's 16-goal win over the West Coast Fever last night.
Williams, aided by Ferns teammate Leana de Bruin and Elias Shadrock, worked tirelessly, closing down the much-vaunted Fever shooters Caitlin Bassett and Catherine Cox.
The star defender collected four intercepts and eight deflections in what was an all-round outstanding defensive performance from the Magic.
After publicly expressing her dismay in her own performances last week, Williams said she was much happier with last night's showing at Tauranga's TECT Arena.
"Yeah, that's kind of more like it," said Williams. "I just need to do that more and more, and I think as I get more confidence and less pain, I'll be able to."
Williams also credited Shadrock, who in just her second start for the Magic this season, defended doggedly out in front.
"She had a lot of tips and put a lot of pressure on the wing attack to set up the ball for us at the back."
Last night's win lifted the Magic to sixth place on the ANZ Championship table, as they continue the long climb back from 10th position following their 0-4 start to the season. They broke their drought last week with a convincing nine-goal win over the Tactix.
Coach Noeline Taurua was disappointed with her side's turnover rate on attack in last night's match, with their option-taking poor.
Wearing their new vibrant coral "clash strip", the Magic looked much more clinical from the outset of last night's match. The home side were fluent in their through court play, while their delivery into the shooting circle was more concise, using ball movement to beat the Fever defenders.
Despite wearing some heavy hits from the defence, Irene van Dyk was ever reliable, shooting 37 from 39.
The Magic defenders also responded well after a lacklustre showing Rotorua last week, with Williams and de Bruin in dominant form in the goal circle. One of the few defensive pairings in the league that can match the "twin towers" in the Fever attack for height, the Magic defenders relished the aerial ball in the circle.
Cox, the Fever captain, said her side were guilty of playing into the hands of the Magic defenders.
"One thing we talked about was 'don't lift the ball' because that's what they were trying to set up. The problem with that is if you don't have any other options that's where you put it. So they did an amazing job of cutting down our options outside," she said."
The great Kiwi hope in the transtasman league, the Northern Mystics, suffered an ominous 56-43 loss to the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane yesterday, in a rematch of the 2011 ANZ Championship grand final.
The Central Pulse will also return home from their trip across the Tasman without any points, but they can be a bit more satisfied with their performance, having pushed the NSW Swifts hard in their 36-39 loss.By Dana Johannsen Email Dana