Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Netball: Top four spots will be tricky to decide

Khao Watts of the Magic grabs the ball ahead of Geva Mentor of the Vixens and Irene van Dyk of the Magic during the round four ANZ Championship match. Photo / Getty Images.
Khao Watts of the Magic grabs the ball ahead of Geva Mentor of the Vixens and Irene van Dyk of the Magic during the round four ANZ Championship match. Photo / Getty Images.

Get out your calculators, pens and note pads, the last round of the trans-Tasman netball league is upon us and there are numerous scenarios that could play out to determine who will finish in the top four.

Only the Melbourne Vixens and Northern Mystics are guaranteed spots in the playoffs due to having 18 competition points and a superior goal differential over the chasing pack, but after those two teams there are four sides chasing the final two spots.

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic, Adelaide Thunderbirds and NSW Swifts all have 16 points, while the defending champion Queensland Firebirds are an outside shot with only 14 competition points.

For the Magic and Thunderbirds, the equation is simple: win and you will make the post-season.

Both outfits have strong goal differentials and will thrive on knowing their destiny is in their own hands this weekend.

The same can't be said for the Swifts and Firebirds, who must win their respective contest in the final week of the regular season, and hope other results fall their way so they can find a place in the top four.

The Southern Steel - who are destined to finish in the bottom three - will kick off round 14 when they host the Vixens in Invercargill tomorrow afternoon. (Sat)

If they were to find a way to topple the Vixens that would open the door for the Mystics to claim the minor premiership if they were to win their Sunday evening clash with the NSW Swifts in Auckland.

The Vixens are one of the competition's elite teams for a reason though, and with an injury-ravaged side it's hard to see the Steel getting up against the Melburnians.

The Thunderbirds meet the Canterbury Tactix in Adelaide on Sunday, which shapes as a great opportunity for the South Australians to firm their spot in the top four.

The Tactix have struggled all season and the Thunderbirds will be confident of picking up a big victory to improve their goal percentage, which could be vital when the top four positions are determined.

On Sunday afternoon, the seventh-placed Central Pulse will meet the eighth-placed West Coast Fever in Perth.

The game has no bearing on the playoffs, but Pulse coach Robyn Broughton said her side had plenty of motivation to perform.

"It gives us the opportunity to gain some more experience and have another go at an Australian team. We'll be up against a passionate home crowd and that always presents a challenge."

The Magic complete the round on Monday night when they host the Firebirds in Hamilton.

After dropping their first four games of the season the Magic have won the last eight straight, and are aiming to keep their streak alive of having made the playoffs every season that the ANZ Championship has been in existence.

"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."

The Magic sit third on the ladder and have the best goal differential in the competition and could end the Firebirds' season with a win on Monday to book their spot in the post-season.

- APNZ

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