Netball: Mystics on the ball for players

By Dana Johannsen

Despite being without a coach, the Northern Mystics have wasted no time in beginning their recruitment for next year's transtasman league.

The player contracting window opened only at the end of last week, but the Mystics have already signed former Silver Fern Debbie White and are in talks with a couple of other players from outside this year's squad.

The Auckland franchise is also expected to today finalise the signing of star centre Temepara George, who had been in doubt following the axing of her long-time coach and mentor Yvonne Willering.

With the Mystics still on the hunt for Willering's replacement, a selection panel has been appointed to pick next year's squad.

Mystics chief executive Mark Cameron said they were looking to add "a couple of new elements" to the team next year and were in negotiations with a number of players.

White comes to the Mystics after a disappointing first season in the ANZ Championship having spent most of the year warming the bench at the Southern Steel.

Her limited court time saw White slip out of Silver Ferns contention this year, losing out to Steel teammates Erika Burgess and Wendy Telfer.

The 30-year-old physical education teacher admitted it had been a frustrating year with the Steel and was excited about starting afresh in Auckland.

"I was really just looking for a different environment because I'm really enjoying playing so I wanted something that would challenge me and give me more opportunities," she said.

Cameron has assured the athletic midcourter court time this season.

"She didn't get a lot of court time with the Steel, but she will with us," he said. "We targeted Debbie as someone we think will add to the culture of our team and she's really looking for court time so she can re-establish herself as a premium New Zealand player, so we took advantage of that opportunity."

White is renowned as a very fit and hard working player and Cameron said these attributes would make her a valuable addition to the squad.

The conditioning of the Mystics squad came under scrutiny this season, with the Auckland side labelled unfit and ill-prepared for the tough, competitive new league.

Cameron said the franchise wanted to develop a strong training ethic among the team next year, and White would be a key part of this.

"She's incredibly fit and if she can bring that to trainings and help improve that training performance culture, that would be great."

White will base herself in Auckland from January next year, and plans to pick up some work as a relief teacher during the season.

Jade Topia and Grace Rasmussen will also be returning to the Mystics next year, having already signed multi-year deals, and Cameron hopes to have most of the squad finalised by the end of the week.

The Mystics are looking to contract 10 players before October 1, when they have to submit their preliminary squads to the league office.

Cameron said they would leave two spots open for regional players that impressed during the NPC in September-October.

- NZ Herald

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