Netball: Magic move pays off for Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick

By Ingrid Tiriana

Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick is having the time of her life.
"It's been surreal, I'm just enjoying the experience," says the 18-year-old Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic defender.
She certainly seems to be having a good time, if the big smile which never seems to leave her face is anything to go by.
There are a few nerves in that smile but it has proved infectious and Tone-Fitzpatrick has shown herself to be a real presence on the court, a leading light for her team, who face Queensland's Firebirds in Brisbane in tonight's ANZ Championship major semifinal.
Tone-Fitzpatrick hadn't a clue pre-match if she would get court time but there's every chance, given the major contribution she's made to Magic's 2011 campaign to-date.
The New Zealand Under-21 representative spent last year with the Mystics but was on court for just one quarter of one match. This year she's been part of the starting line-up for many of Magic's games and has made the most of every opportunity, always willing to go the extra mile to get her hands on the ball.
She reckons she may have taken that a bit too far when she found herself flying through the air and taking a dive over a row of courtside seats during one recent match but as always, she emerged with a smile on her face.
"I copped a lot of flak about that," she admits. "But I'm willing to do anything for the team and everyone else is the same, we've all got each other's backs.
"Getting court time is great and I've just been trying to make the most of it. I'm enjoying learning from the senior players.

"I just want to do the best I can so I'm not a liability on court."
Asked if she's living the dream, she replies in the affirmative. "Free travel, free food and gear, hanging out with Silver Ferns ... yeah."
But Tone-Fitzpatrick admits she's not as confident as she may appear.
"I get scared when we go out on court. I'm generally quite nervous and the others have to calm me down."
In her ANZ Championship profile the Auckland-based defender listed captaining the New Zealand Secondary Schools team to victory in the International Schoolgirls Tournament as her career highlight. Her first season with Magic has surpassed that, she says.
"This year has been my best in terms of experience. It's another level up, I'm learning a lot and I really enjoy the environment - and having a chance to make the ANZ Champs final is awesome."
On the court Tone-Fitzpatrick has formed a very effective partnership with Casey Williams and she's soaking up as much as she can learn from the Silver Ferns star and the other experienced players around her.
She'd like to be a Silver Fern herself one day but reckons she still has a lot to learn before she's ready to take that step up. For now, she says, she's happy to keep her head down, keep working and "see how it goes".
Her rise to the top could happen much faster than she thinks if Magic coach Noeline Taurua's predictions are good. She reckons Tone-Fitzpatrick is a potential game breaker who could be in the Silver Ferns squad within the next few years.
In the meantime, the teenager is happy to be learning from some of the game's best and could be back in Magic colours next year "if they'll have me".
As far as the Magic franchise is concerned, that's probably a no-brainer.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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