Dana Johannsen on sport

Dana Johannsen is a Herald sport writer

Dana Johannsen: Tearful van Dyk 'willed on' by her mother's spirit

Irene van Dyk in action. Photo / Christine Cornege
Irene van Dyk in action. Photo / Christine Cornege

Magic captain Laura Langman said there were no words to describe what winning the transtasman league after four seasons of disappointment meant to her.

But words weren't really needed.

You only had to look at the faces of the Magic team when the final whistle blew in their gripping 41-38 grand final win over the Melbourne Vixens to know what it meant.

Langman, who worked tirelessly on attack and defence all day, still had enough energy to leap skywards.

Casey Williams and grand final MVP Leana de Bruin - the Magic's warriors on defence - embraced and rushed to join their teammates.

The bench, who had been off their feet for the final quarter, riding every pass, quickly joined a mass huddle.

But Irene van Dyk's reaction spoke of much more complex emotions.

With an incredible 25/26 strike rate in the red hot intensity of the final, the Magic's rock simply let out a long breath and handed the ball to the umpire. Expressionless, she walked to Julianna Naoupu, her lieutenant in the shooting circle, and hugged her tightly.

Openly sobbing, van Dyk was joined by the rest of her teammates - her tears a mixture of elation, relief, exhaustion and grief.

The inspirational shooter learned just hours before last week's win over the Mystics that her mother had passed away in South Africa.

She then had to quickly focus her attentions on winning a grand final.

Van Dyk said that in those tense final minutes of the Magic's come-from-behind win, she had felt her mother's presence out on court.

"I definitely felt like she was out there with me today. Well, maybe not the first three and a half quarters," she laughed. "But she came through for us. I could feel her willing us on."

For all the titles, records and milestones van Dyk has racked up, perhaps nothing speaks more of her strength and character than the poise she has shown this week.

Tomorrow she will fly to South Africa with her daughter Bianca to attend her mother's funeral, knowing she has done one last thing to honour her mother before she is laid to rest.

"There was a reason for me staying, and luckily it was successful," she said.

- NZ Herald

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