Netball: Coaching maestro backs Magic win

Julianna Naoupou of the Magic regains posession during the Minor Semi Final ANZ Championship match between the Magic and the Thunderbirds. Photo / Getty Images.
Julianna Naoupou of the Magic regains posession during the Minor Semi Final ANZ Championship match between the Magic and the Thunderbirds. Photo / Getty Images.

Coaching legend Lois Muir has backed Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic's strong team platform to pull them through against the Vixens in Sunday's transtasman netball league grand final in Melbourne.

The former Silver Ferns mentor has long since hung up her clipboard but remains an astute and well-informed observer.

Keeping a close eye on proceedings throughout the transtasman competition, Muir no longer has to deal with the anxieties of a hands-on coach but likes what she had seen from Magic.

Despite an inglorious start to their season, where they were anchored at the foot of the table after four opening losses, Muir did not give up on the wayward Magic as they book a third trip to the grand final in the competition's five-year history.

With the Magic losing both their previous grand final chances in 2010 and 2008, and Northern Mystics suffering a similar fate last year, Muir feels the tide of Australian dominance could be about to turn.

"The Magic can do it and not because it's their turn," Muir said. "It's never your right to win but they have the material there to do it. It's within their power and I back them.

"They've played so well as a team in recent weeks. They have that x-factor as a team and if they're beaten on the day, it's going to be by a very good team.

"I think they've done a lot of work. There's the odd little chink but nobody's got the perfect team and the Magic's got that unit now that's worked right through it all. They're working well as a team and they're working for each other. That is the key."

Muir described the Vixens as tough and experienced and that had been a vital factor to their survival during the season. The two teams have exhibited similar qualities at times, both proving strong finishers in tight situations and also having the ability to keep turnovers low.

One of the Vixens last-gasp wins came at the hands of Magic in round four, when they came from six goals down to snatch a one-goal win in the dying seconds.

The Vixens, who won the major semi-final two weeks ago and with it a week off, believe their lighter workload and home court advantage will be a massive boost in their bid for a second title following their success in 2009.

"The Magic have to travel and have played the extra game but when you get out there you forget all that stuff, you forget the crowd aren't cheering for you - it's quite good sometimes if they're not," Muir said.

"People put a lot of emphasis on being in your home environment but by the same token your own critics are also right there on your shoelaces.

"I think the Magic are beyond that and I don't think it matters a stuff to them really. They're there to do the business and it will have to be a pretty good team to beat them on the day."

The Magic's tense ride to secure their place in the grand final was well-highlighted in their last outing when they dug themselves out of a hole to force extra time against the Mystics. Given a sniff, they went on to punish their neighbours.

"The Magic had a wobble in that last quarter against the Mystics but they showed their worth and if they can just drive that competitiveness they had in extra time, they'll be right," Muir said.

"I've got a lot of faith in them, they're playing very well as a unit, they're caring for each other and that makes a difference. If they keep that up they'll be okay."

- APNZ

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