Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic floored by demand to host semi on flawed floor

Magic's Casey Williams in action at Claudelands Event Centre. Photo / Christine Cornege.
Magic's Casey Williams in action at Claudelands Event Centre. Photo / Christine Cornege.

The Magic are furious transtasman league officials have ignored concerns over player welfare and scheduled next week's ANZ Championship playoff match at Claudelands Arena - a court they believe is damaging their athletes.

Management of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side claim the surface at the new multimillion-dollar Hamilton facility is faulty and potentially dangerous to players.

The Magic have shifted their Hamilton games from Mystery Creek to Claudelands this season.

There have been complaints that the court does not have as much "give" as other sprung wooden floors and players have reported more knee soreness and tightness in their calves than usual after playing at the venue.

Magic defender Casey Williams, who has managed knee and ankle injuries for much of her career, said: "You don't notice it so much out there - [the court] just feels a bit tinny. If anything, you feel it more the next day.

"But I'm just happy to be in the finals, I'd play anywhere."

Visiting teams have noticed "dead spots" at certain points on the court, with bounce passes stopping dead at the feet of players.

Given their problems with the court this season, Magic chief executive Sheryl Dawson said the franchise's preference was to play Monday's sudden-death playoff against the Adelaide Thunderbirds at Tauranga's TECT Arena.

But transtasman netball bosses have insisted the match be played at Claudelands, which has a capacity of 4000 - about 1000 more than the Tauranga venue. All revenue from ticket sales for the playoffs goes to Trans-Tasman Netball Limited (TTNL).

"TTNL have the final say in the choice of the venue and while we've expressed our views on the matter, the end result is we're playing at Claudelands," said Dawson.

"Claudelands holds more people than TECT Arena, so it seems money and also the proximity to Auckland has influenced [the league's] choice. We made our recommendations with our team's health and well-being the number one priority."

TTNL chief executive Andy Crook was unavailable for comment yesterday, but his office released a statement saying that after looking at the installation and speaking with the suppliers, the league was satisfied that the floor was suitable for play.

"Claudelands have been proactive in working with the supplier of the Olympic-rated Junckers floor in installation and tuning and believe it is currently performing within the expected range for a system of this nature," the statement read.

The Magic have raised concerns over the drop-in court with Claudelands Arena management several times this season.

The Hamilton City Council, which manages the venue, has agreed to bring in an independent expert in sprung wooden floors to examine the surface with representatives from the Magic this week.

"The people that put the floor down claim that it is fine," Dawson said, "but we're certainly not seeing it as fine - all the teams that have played there have remarked about the court."

Dawson said that after a bruising final round match-up against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on Monday night, she was worried about the effect playing at Claudelands for the second time in eight days would have on the players' bodies and their finals campaign.

"The players have always said that they wouldn't be able to cope with two matches in a row because of the impact on their bodies.

"But we have no choice in the matter, so we're working hard to do everything we can in terms of the recovery."

- NZ Herald

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