Sporting achievement of the Year Finalist: Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic

By Dylan Cleaver

The Magic celebrate
The Magic overcame a slow start to win the championship. Photo / Getty Images
The Magic overcame a slow start to win the championship. Photo / Getty Images

With each passing year the anxiety levels at Netball New Zealand's office were ramping up ever so slightly.

The Swifts, the Vixens, the birds of Thunder and Fire had all achieved what no New Zealand franchise could manage - a transtasman ANZ Championship title.

Early in the 2012 edition of the tournament, the signs were not looking promising.

The Southern Steel and Canterbury Tactix were too light on talent to mount a serious title charge, the Central Pulse were still a long way short of championship calibre and the Northern Mystics had a reputation for being flighty.

Meanwhile, the franchise with the spine of the Silver Ferns running through their core, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, were on the brink of effective elimination. They started the season going down to the Steel in Invercargill, then returned home to a six-goal reverse against the Mystics.

Trips to Sydney and Melbourne failed to bear the fruits of victory and after four of 13 rounds they were winless and stone-cold, motherless last. They never lost again.

Qualifying in third place and with the best goals differential in the competition, the Magic held their nerve to squeeze past Adelaide Thunderbirds 49-48 in the elimination semifinal, then travelled north to shred the Mystics on their own court, winning the preliminary final 57-48.

Off to Melbourne for the final, a familiar scenario for the Magic, who had been to two finals and lost to Australian opposition, the Swifts and Thunderbirds. Down 28-31 at three-quarter time, a familiar pattern seemed to be unfolding, but a 13-7 final quarter blitz sealed victory.

It had been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait - validation for coach Noeline Taurua and stars like Casey Williams, Laura Langham and the peerless Irene van Dyk, who would have faced charges of underachieving at that level if they couldn't muster a championship.

You cannot deny that the tournament doesn't hold suspense - that's five different winners for each year.

And finally one on this side of the Tasman.

Sporting achievement of the Year Finalists:
Valerie Adams
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie
More to be named throughout the week

- NZ Herald

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