Netball: Crunch time in transtasman league

By Daniel Richardson

Maria Tutaia of the Mystics shoots during the ANZ Championship netball match at Trusts Stadium on June 11. Photo / Getty Images.
Maria Tutaia of the Mystics shoots during the ANZ Championship netball match at Trusts Stadium on June 11. Photo / Getty Images.

With two rounds to go in regular season of the transtasman netball league, Northern Mystics coach Debbie Fuller summed up the situation nicely.

As her team prepares to head to Christchurch to meet the Canterbury Tactix on Sunday evening, she offered: "All it comes down to at this time of the season is who can execute well under pressure."

The third-placed Mystics share the same amount of competition points as the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Melbourne Vixens but trail their neighbours from across the ditch on goal differential.

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic and NSW Swifts are only two points further back in what has been the tightest ANZ Championship race since the competition began in 2008.

While the Tactix occupy last place on the transtasman league ladder, they pushed the Mystics to within one goal late last month and beat the Southern Steel last weekend.

Fuller said she wanted her side to bounce back from their 48-46 loss to the Magic on Sunday and make a run heading into the post-season.

"We want the confidence within the team to keep growing and building and this week it's been back to basics and just looking at the basic game plan and everybody being able to work together. So it's just all that coming together for the end of the season so that we can have good momentum, good confidence and good structures going in to the finals."

The Mystics would put themselves in a good position to claim top spot from the regular season and book home advantage for the playoffs with two wins from their final two games.

After meeting the Tactix, they host the Swifts in Auckland and given the close nature of the competition, winning both games would be crucial as playing in Australia continues to be tough for Kiwi teams.

The Magic kick off round 13 when they host the Thunderbirds in Tauranga tomorrow afternoon.

Riding high on a seven-match winning streak, the Magic will be desperate to knock off the table-topping Thunderbirds and victory would all but assure them of a spot in the playoffs with one week to go, given their strong goal differential.

On Sunday, the Swifts host the Steel in Sydney in a must-win game for the fifth-placed NSW side who are aiming to sneak into the top four.

Following that game, the Queensland Firebirds meet the struggling West Coast Fever in Brisbane.

The Firebirds are in sixth spot on the ladder and remain an outside chance to claim a place in the playoffs, but would need to win and have other results go their way.

In Monday's only game, the Central Pulse tackle the Melbourne Vixens in Porirua.

The Pulse can't make the playoffs, and the Vixens, who are in second place, will be keen to consolidate their hold on a finals berth.

Pulse captain Katrina Grant said despite being out of contention for the top four, her side still had plenty to play for.

"Pride. And, we've got nothing to lose. This has been out best year ever and we'd like to carry that on and hopefully take it through to next year."

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- APNZ

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