Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Netball: Magic starting to find their stride

Khao Watts of the Magic. Photo / Getty Images.
Khao Watts of the Magic. Photo / Getty Images.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic came perilously close to being out of the race before it had virtually started but they are now feeling like they could continue their unprecedented record of making the playoffs every year.

After starting the ANZ Championship with four-straight losses, the powerhouse franchise, who are stacked with Silver Ferns, have won their last two and are only two points outside the top four. It has helped the competition is so tight and only four points separate third and ninth.

The Magic are the only team in the history of the competition who have made the post-season in each of the first four seasons and, while they've never won the title, their consistency has been impressive. It helps when you boast a roster including seasoned internationals Casey Williams, Irene van Dyk, Laura Langman and Leana de Bruin but Williams said they felt momentum had returned.

"Everybody's pointed out that we've had a slow start because it's just not our usual results but I think our training and everything else that we do, our expectations are so much higher than they used to be, which is progress for us and I think the last two weeks have given us huge confidence," Williams said.

"It's so exciting and I love winning. It's such a different feeling and I think it just gives us a bit more confidence in our game plan and in each other."

The sixth-place Magic will expect to register their third consecutive win when they take on the Central Pulse in Porirua on Monday night but the home side have aspirations of their own and have looked better this season under new coach Robyn Broughton.

The Pulse have also won two games this season but are below the Magic in ninth due to their lower goal percentage. The Magic have never lost to the Pulse and Williams said they didn't want that to change in their seventh-round match this weekend.

"They've got a lot of good players there," Williams said of the Pulse. "It's going to be a very tough game and we are definitely not taking them lightly at all and we don't want to lose to them."

In other matches this weekend, the second-placed Adelaide Thunderbirds host the West Coast Fever who, despite attracting former Australian national coach Norma Plummer to the franchise in the off-season, have managed only two wins from their opening six games.

In what is sure to be a tight top-four encounter, the fourth-placed NSW Swifts host the unbeaten Melbourne Vixens in Sydney tomorrow (sat).

After copping a tough 10-goal loss to Adelaide across the Tasman last week, the Northern Mystics will look to bounce back when they travel south to play the Steel in Dunedin.

The Mystics are the only Kiwi team in the top five after six rounds of the competition and will want to get back to their winning ways against a Steel side who have been more competitive than most picked they would be this year.

In the final match of the round on Monday night, the Canterbury Tactix appear to be heading on a mission impossible against the defending champion Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane.

The bottom-of-the-table Tactix have won only one game this year and have been installed as $11 outsiders for the contest.

- APNZ

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