Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Netball: One down, one to go for Waikato's magic couple

Casey Williams holds the trophies aloft at a parade in Hamilton. Photo / Christine Cornege.
Casey Williams holds the trophies aloft at a parade in Hamilton. Photo / Christine Cornege.

They're at the helm of the two hottest sporting teams in New Zealand, but Sheryl and Gary Dawson still have tonight's Chiefs semifinal to get through.

She is the chief executive of the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic, the first New Zealand netball team to win the ANZ Championship, and he is chief executive at the Chiefs rugby franchise, which has been near the top of the Super 15 table for most of the season.

The husband-and-wife team will be at Waikato Stadium to will the Chiefs to beat the Crusaders and keep the region's winning momentum going.

And, just as some of the Chiefs players gathered at the Magic's semifinal in Hamilton before they beat the Melbourne Vixens on Sunday, Mrs Dawson said the netballers would turn out in force tonight to reciprocate the support.

But that wouldn't quell the nerves of the Tauranga couple.

"I imagine he [Gary] is feeling the same way I did when we played the Mystics and it went into overtime.

"It's always hard as the CEO of a sports team, because you can do as much as you possibly can with the resources you've got but it's a game of sport and you've got to sometimes expect you'll win and sometimes expect you won't win," Mrs Dawson said.

"We both talk about this and I just hope for Gary that the Chiefs do chalk up a win and we have the opportunity of hosting the Super rugby final as well."

Mrs Dawson, a former representative player, coach and umpire, took up a business development role at the Magic in 2002 and moved from there to became chief executive.

In 2008 she moved into a marketing position and remained CEO at Bay of Plenty Netball, but came back to be chief executive at the Magic in 2010.

Mr Dawson has been with the Chiefs franchise for 13 years.

Yesterday the Magic shared their glory with fans in a parade in Tauranga and a mayoral reception inHamilton.

Mrs Dawson thanked the 400 supporters who turned out for the event, saying they had cheered on the team at every home game with "style, colour and panache".

Winning the transtasman netball league was a "huge victory on a whole lot of levels and in so many ways", she told the Herald.

"It's been an absolutely magnificent achievement because what it means now is that all our hard work over the past five years, for the coach in particular, Noeline Taurua, who has looked at numerous ways of making it happen, it has all come together and been achieved."

What also made the Magic team special, aside from taking the title from the Vixens at their home stadium in Melbourne, was that Casey Williams, captain Laura Langman and Irene van Dyk had been involved with the franchise since 2003.

All three went on to make the national squad, and Williams and Langman were students when they joined the Magic.

"What it means for the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty is really an exciting future. It shows you can go from a dream as a schoolgirl and reach the pinnacle of success, not only within Magic but also the Silver Ferns."

- NZ Herald

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