Daniel Richardson

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

Netball: Grant ready for van Dyk challenge

Magic shooter Irene van Dyk competing for the ball with Pulse defender Katrina Grant during last year's competition. File photo / Christine Cornege
Magic shooter Irene van Dyk competing for the ball with Pulse defender Katrina Grant during last year's competition. File photo / Christine Cornege

Katrina Grant admits she is in awe of Irene van Dyk.

The Central Pulse skipper will again be charged with marking netball's long-time elite shooter when the Wellington-based side travel to Tauranga to meet the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in transtasman netball action on Sunday.

The South African-born van Dyk has collected 202 international caps - 130 for the New Zealand and 72 for her country of birth.

The 1.90m goal shoot turns 40 later this month and Grant can't help but wonder how the veteran does it.

"I have no idea how she keeps going at [nearly] 40. I'm 25 and I'm breaking down," Grant laughed.

"So I have no idea how she's lasted till 40 because I'm pretty sure that won't be happening with me. But it's so impressive and she's looking so young and athletic and I think she's getting PBs in the gym so it's kind of crazy. Respect."

Grant and van Dyk have had numerous training ground tussles together at Silver Ferns camps, but the 25-year-old recalled one where she nearly became public enemy No 1 in New Zealand netball.

"I've taken her out in training once when we were overseas and she was in a bit of pain and I was just like 'oh, man'. Everyone stopped and gave me the look of death and I was like 'I'm sorry, I'm sure it won't happen again'."

While Grant won't be looking to take her out this weekend she knows her ability to keep van Dyk out of the round 11 game will go a long way to seeing the Pulse pull off an unlikely victory over the Magic.

The seventh-placed Pulse have never beaten the Magic, but then again they've also never had a three-match winning streak and with wins over Adelaide, the Canterbury Tactix and Southern Steel recently they've managed to achieve that.

"This season's been one of those where history has been made and we've done things we've never done before so I'm all for keeping that going," Grant said.

As the sixth-placed Magic, who like the Pulse have 10 competition points but a better goal difference, push for a fifth-consecutive berth in the playoffs, they'll hope they can find what it takes to keep the Pulse at bay this weekend.

In the round's other fixtures, the Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds get the action underway on Sunday when they meet in Adelaide in what shapes as an important game for both sides.

They're both in the top four tied on 12 points and although they have a strong goal difference, the fifth-placed NSW Swifts also have 12 competition points and will want to leapfrog the eventual loser.

The Swifts have an opportunity to claim another two competition points and jump in to the top four when they meet the ninth-placed West Coast Fever in Perth, also on Sunday.

The Fever have only won two from nine this season and have been largely underwhelming but are always a tricky prospect on their home court, while the Pulse and Magic will complete the busy Sunday of netball.

In Monday night's only game, the Northern Mystics host the Southern Steel in Auckland.

The Mystics are second on the table behind the Melbourne Vixens on goal difference and a big victory would be vital to their cause given how tight the top four is.

The Vixens and the bottom-placed Canterbury Tactix have the bye this weekend, which gives the Mystics a chance to skip ahead of the Melbourne outfit if they can beat the Steel.

- APNZ

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