Netball: Trip to Oz no longer feared by Mystics

By Dana Johannsen

Mystics defender Anna Harrison expects the Firebirds to fight strongly this week after their round four loss to the Vixens. Photo / Getty Images
Mystics defender Anna Harrison expects the Firebirds to fight strongly this week after their round four loss to the Vixens. Photo / Getty Images

For the Northern Mystics the Australian road trip used to be like going to the dentist - they knew it wasn't going to be enjoyable, but it was something they just had to get over and done with.

If they were lucky they might escape without a filling, or put in a respectable performance in a losing effort - something positive to take away from an altogether unpleasant experience.

But after a series of breakthroughs on Australian soil last season, the trip across the Tasman is no longer something for the Mystics to dread.

Today the Auckland side cross the ditch for the first time this season ahead of their sixth round clash against the Queensland Firebirds in a rematch of last year's ANZ Championship grand final.

The match is a tricky prospect for the Mystics. While the defending champions are just 1-4 for the season, they outplayed the table-topping Melbourne Vixens for all but the final five minutes of last week's match.

They will need a committed full-court defensive effort to unravel the Firebirds attack, spearheaded by Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken. On attack they need to be calm and composed, and use their court smarts to defuse the threat of star defender Laura Geitz, a clever hunter of the ball.

But the fact the match will be played in Australia, where they can expect different umpiring interpretations from the local officials, has barely rated a mention in the Mystics camp this week.

Coach Debbie Fuller said her side had the skills, experience and nous to win across the Tasman, and after last season, they now have the belief.

"I think we made huge strides last season," said Fuller.

"I don't think [playing in Australia] is an issue, and you don't want to make it an issue either.

"All we're doing is going to another place to play a game of netball."

The grand final re-match will be just one of five transtasman clashes this weekend, which has the potential to shake up the ANZ Championship leaderboard.

The Magic will be looking to claim back-to-back wins for the first time this season, when they take on the West Coast Fever in Tauranga tomorrow.

The much-heralded arrival of former Australian coach Norma Plummer and veteran shooter Catherine Cox to Fever's ranks this year has given the team from Perth a more solid look but they have yet to deliver on their potential.

But Plummer will fancy her chances against the Waikato/Bay of Plenty side, who have also struggled to find their groove.

"Yes, there's no doubt they'll be chasing us," Magic coach Noeline Taurua said. "Over the years, Fever have been one of those teams that can take anybody out irrelevant of where they sit on the table.

"They're definitely tenacious and defensively they go for everything and with Caitlin Bassett, they've got a scoring machine in the back there.

"Those are the characteristics which make up their winning edge and I wouldn't expect anything less than a wholehearted challenge from them."

Round six kicks off tomorrow when the Central Pulse take on the NSW Swifts in Sydney.

The Monday night games feature the Canterbury Tactix against the Vixens in Christchurch, before the Southern Steel meet the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.

Round 6

Tomorrow: 2.10pm NSW Swifts v Central Pulse, Sydney; 4.20pm Queensland Firebirds v Northern Mystics, Gold Coast; 7.20pm Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic v West Coast Fever, Tauranga.

Monday: 7.40pm Canterbury Tactix v Melbourne Vixens, Christchurch; 10.10pm Adelaide Thunderbirds v Southern Steel, Adelaide.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 23 Sep 2014 09:38:36 Processing Time: 569ms