Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Emotional farewell for midcourt maestro

Temepara George. Picture / Richard Robinson
Temepara George. Picture / Richard Robinson

It would be hard to imagine a crueller end to Temepara George's career.

With 30 seconds remaining in regular time of last night's playoff against the Magic, the Mystics looked to be headed to Melbourne to contest the ANZ Championship grand final for the second straight year.

There they would have the chance to send their inspirational skipper and Auckland netball stalwart out on a high. The celebrations had already started on the bench, before they were quelled by a late steal from Magic defender Leana de Bruin which was calmly converted to send the match in to extra time.

After the match George's partner and son performed a haka on the sideline, reducing the typically bubbly midcourter and her distraught team-mates to tears.

The Mystics then gathered around their skipper to tell her how much she has meant to the franchise.

"It was pretty emotional, it was so cool," said George of the impromptu haka.

"And then just having the girls come around in the huddle - it certainly makes you feel loved."

George was at her energetic best in her final match in front of her home crowd at Waitakere's Trusts Stadium, dictating the pace in the Mystics attack end and displaying desperation on defence.

But she will be left ruing a late mistake which gave the Magic possession in the dying seconds and the opportunity to send the match in to extra time.

"We had it in the bag and we let it go," said George simply.

"We had 30 seconds to go and we should have just played it back to the line. But it is easy to say that now. We can't dwell on it too much - them's the breaks I suppose."

Brave words from the captain, but the heartbreak was evident on the faces of the Mystics players after the match.

Mystics coach Debbie Fuller said her side left it all out on the court and that's all she could ask for.

"It is pretty heart-breaking, but there has to be a winner and a loser and unfortunately we couldn't do the job tonight."

- NZ Herald

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