Netball: Magic ready for another pressure cooker clash

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic well prepared for their key transtasman netball league clash against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on Monday. Photo / Getty Images.
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic well prepared for their key transtasman netball league clash against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on Monday. Photo / Getty Images.

Weeks of battling for survival has left the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic well prepared for their key transtasman netball league clash against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on Monday.

Riding eight straight wins, the latest and most impressive being a 17-goal dissection of the Adelaide Thunderbirds, the Magic have improved to such an extent they are now the form team of the competition with one round of the regular season remaining.

After four opening losses came close to derailing their season almost before it had begun, the Magic have lived on a knife edge, but a win over the defending champions would cement a spot in the finals series for the fifth successive year.

The big question is whether they can maintain the calibre of performance achieved in recent weeks.

"The pressure's there but it's not a pressure that we're fearful of because we know what this pressure's all about ... we've had it since round three," Magic coach Noeline Taurua said. "It has helped us build to where we are now and that's in a good space."

Describing the win against Thunderbirds as the Magic's most complete of the season and mindful of the work that's gone on behind the scenes, Taurua was confident the processes that have served the team so well in recent weeks would remain in place for whatever the Firebirds throw at them.

"There's always risk and some times you don't know that until you get into a game as to where the players are at and that doesn't change," she said. "There's always the possibility that someone else is going to be better than you on the day.

"We can play the Magic way which is turn and let the ball go but I feel over the weeks we've been playing that disciplined style as well. I just feel we've got enough in our back pocket that if things aren't going right we can play real tight simple netball to get ourselves through."

As has been the Magic style this year, mainly due to circumstance, there has been a cautious one-game-at-a-time approach.

The booster of a winning record in recent weeks has nonetheless been tempered by their perilous situation with the perennial semifinalists taking until round 11 to jump into the top four for the first time.

Having patiently bided their time, the mindset remained the same for the last clash of round 14, during which the semifinalists will be decided.

"We know we've got one more game and in that game we know we've got control over what we can do," Taurua said.

"We really want to finish this round robin as best can while still keeping the same philosophy that we've been tracking along with for the last three months which is about us looking to be better and working hard to show that in our performance. That philosophy won't change.

"We're not getting carried away with anything. We know you can be good one week and the next week momentum can change, so we're not taking anything for granted."

- APNZ

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