Netball: Retiring Mystics veteran 'our inspiration for final'

By Dana Johannsen

Temepara George. Photo / Richard Robinson
Temepara George. Photo / Richard Robinson

The impending retirement of midcourt star Temepara George is being carefully avoided as a topic of conversation in the Northern Mystics camp during their finals campaign.

George, who stepped down from international netball last year, has long signalled 2012 was to be her closing season in the transtasman league.

Now, with just two weeks remaining in the season, the day the midcourt star hangs up her bib is drawing near.

A loss to the Magic in Monday night's preliminary final would spell the end of the Mystics' finals campaign and George's playing career.

However the catch-cry "doing it for Bubby" will not be heard in the Mystics camp.

Given the esteem in which George is held by her teammates, Mystics coach Debbie Fuller said she had considered using her captain's looming retirement as a way to rev the team up as they chased a place in the grand final against the Melbourne Vixens.

But George wanted none of it.

"I did think it might be a good way to go about adding an extra layer of motivation for the team, but Temepara prefers we not focus on it," said Fuller.

"So we haven't discussed it as a group at all and that's been led by Temepara. She doesn't want to be singled out, she never has done - she's very humble."

George, who has been shortlisted for the league MVP award, has played every single quarter for the Mystics in their 69 games since the inception of the transtasman competition four years ago.

Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu said while the issue had not been overtly discussed as a team, she was certain each of her teammates would be determined to send their inspirational captain out on a high.

"Bubby doesn't want us to talk about it because I think she gets a bit emotional, so we're just going about our business," said Latu.

"But deep down we want [to win the title] for her as much as ourselves."

Monday night's showdown between the two neighbouring Kiwi franchises will be a rematch of last year's preliminary final in Hamilton, where the Mystics edged out the Magic by one goal to book a grand final date with the Queensland Firebirds.

But this year, the two sides head into the fixture in almost the reverse situation.

The Mystics, who were beaten 56-50 by the Vixens in the major semifinal, will host the final by virtue of their top-two finish, but it's the Magic who have shown better form recently.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty side have not lost a game since April 21, stringing together 10 straight wins including their thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the minor semifinal this week.

Fuller said her side would not be intimidated by the Magic's recent hot streak.

"Momentum is a catchphrase that people like to throw around out there," she said, "but really it comes down to whichever team can apply pressure and execute for longer on the day."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 19 Sep 2014 22:13:07 Processing Time: 422ms