Netball: Magic lose their home advantage as stadium is rejected

By Julie Ash

Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic netball fans will have to settle for watching their side on television after Netball New Zealand rejected Tauranga's Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre as a suitable venue to host the final of the National Bank Cup.

With its main stadium at Hamilton's Mystery Creek booked for the Fieldays, the Magic franchise has searched high and low for a venue that meets Netball NZ requirements to host the final.

In accordance with the governing body's rules, the right to host the final game will be offered to the opposing team - the winner of Friday's clash between North Harbour's Force and the Southern Sting.

The Magic had considered moving a court into Mt Maunganui's Mount Action Centre but that sprung a leak during the recent floods, making it too unsafe.

Its only other hope, the Youth Centre, was yesterday deemed not good enough.

"I am absolutely gutted and disappointed, and so are the people at the Tauranga City Council and the Fire Service who have worked with us on this," said Magic chief executive Sheryl Dawson.

"We did all we could and more to achieve a venue for the home final which the team had earned a right to."

To host the final a stadium must have a capacity of 2500. The Tauranga council told the Herald yesterday that the stadium generally seated about 1250 but for special occasions that could increase to well over 2000 and they had managed to reach 2500.

But other demands also had to be met, such as a decent run-off area from the court and additional rooms for umpires and drug-testing.

"We believe that we meet all the requirements they put before us," Dawson said.

"But they obviously said no."

She said her franchise made Netball NZ aware of the problem with Mystery Creek back in 2002.

"We were told that we would cross that bridge when we came to it and we hoped that the exceptional circumstances which are stated in the Netball NZ handbook would apply.

Netball NZ chief executive Shelley McMeeken said the space problem could not be resolved.

"We are disappointed for Magic ... but this decision needed to reflect what was best for everyone involved."

It is understood the team had considered boycotting the final but have since decided to use the loss of their home advantage as motivation.

"Quite frankly, I have talked to the team and they don't care if it is played on Mars," Dawson said.

"They just want to turn their absolute gut-wrenching disappointment into a winning performance."

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