Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Last-gasp revival out as depleted Mystics face old Magic rivals

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

The battling Northern Mystics have lost their third defender for the year as their season of woe continues.

Young goal keep Jess Moulds has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a back injury, leaving the Mystics' already depleted defensive stocks bare after the withdrawal of captain Anna Harrison (pregnant) and Charlotte Kight (torn Achilles).

Moulds, who missed the team's round-10 loss to the Swifts, has a disc injury and a partial stress fracture to her lower spine. The 24-year-old, who's in Netball New Zealand's accelerant programme, has been put on a carefully monitored rehab plan.

The loss of Moulds comes as a massive blow to the bottom-placed Mystics' hopes of a late-season revival, with no obvious candidate to fill the goal keep spot. The Auckland side opted to transplant midcourter Kayla Cullen into the defensive circle in their last outing two weeks ago, but that was against the Swifts who operate a fast, moving shooting circle with two shorter shooters. Rookies Jessica Bourke and Malia Paseka, the latter a converted shooter, also had a run at goal keep in the Mystics' 19-goal loss to the Swifts - with limited success.

Whichever youngster gets the GK bib on Monday night will also get one of the toughest challenges in netball - trying to shut down the vastly experienced Irene van Dyk as the Mystics face traditional rivals the Magic.

But Mystics coach Ruth Aitken has faith her side can adjust to a new defensive line-up after plenty of practice this season with injury disruptions.

"The whole season we've been focusing on the positives and doing the best we can with the cards we've been dealt," she said. "Some of our young players have been given opportunities to get on court for the first time in the ANZ Championship, so that's one positive we can take out of it all."

Sitting dead last after 11 rounds, the Mystics' chances of avoiding the wooden spoon are extremely slim; they face a tough run home. They meet the Magic twice over the next three weeks, with a trip to Adelaide to take on top of the table Thunderbirds.

In terms of the title, all New Zealand's eggs appear to be once again in the Magic's basket, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side our best chance of a finals spot. With Australian sides occupying the top three spots on the ladder, it's likely there will just be one Kiwi team in the finals this year, although there's still a mathematical chance of a second team - either Southern Steel or Central Pulse - sneaking in there, but the Queensland Firebirds would have to implode over the final three rounds.

Monday night's clash between traditional rivals Mystics and Magic will be notable for a new broadcasting innovation, giving television viewers their first view of the game from the umpire's perspective.

Experienced umpire Jono Bredin will wear a mini-camera attached to his head, the vision linked to the broadcast truck where Sky Sport personnel can integrate the pictures into the live broadcast. It's likely to be used from the goal line, so viewers can see in-goal contesting from the umpire's perspective.

Bredin said he's interested to trial the technology to see how he can improve his own performance.

"It's a positive thing for our own education and personal development. We'll get a DVD of the footage ... to critique our performance."

ANZ Championship - round 12

Today: 4.10pm Melbourne Vixens v NSW Swifts, Melbourne.

Tomorrow: 2.10pm West Coast Fever v Queensland Firebirds, Perth; 7.20pm Southern Steel v Mainland Tactix, Dunedin.

Monday: 7.40pm Northern Mystics v Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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