Netball: Magic's loss seen as end of an era

By Dana Johannsen

Coach Noeline Taurua bowing out and several of team's top players said to be following her through the door.

Laura Langman, left, has already been linked with the Mystics, while Irene van Dyk is likely to consider other franchises. Photo / Christine Cornege
Laura Langman, left, has already been linked with the Mystics, while Irene van Dyk is likely to consider other franchises. Photo / Christine Cornege

There was plenty left unsaid in the post-match press conference as the Magic reflected on their failed transtasman league title defence.

The Magic's sixth finals campaign ended in Hamilton on Sunday night, when they were ousted in the minor semifinal by an impressive Queensland Firebirds side. The 53-50 loss also ended coach Noeline Taurua's 11-year tenure with the team, adding an extra sense of finality to the result.

With Taurua bowing out and several top players rumoured to be following her out the door, there is a feeling that this is the end of an era for New Zealand's most successful ANZ Championship franchise.

Already Magic captain Laura Langman has been linked with the Mystics, while sharpshooter Irene van Dyk - a close friend of Taurua's - is likely to weigh up contracts with other franchises.

Silver Fern defender Leana de Bruin has already played for three different transtasman league franchises, suggesting she will be open to offers elsewhere as well.

With the prospect of having the heart ripped from the team, Sunday night's minor semifinal could very well have been the last time the Magic - the only team to have made the finals in all six seasons of the transtasman league - contest the play-offs for quite some time.

But Langman danced around questions of what would become of the Magic franchise in the future.

"There's been a core of us that have been together for a while, and who knows what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day," she said.

"People have to make choices and decisions in terms of going into next year, but we have a legacy so to speak, and that will live on regardless of who is there and who's not."

Keeping the Magic side together could rest on whom the franchise management appoint as Taurua's successor and how they handle the transition. An announcement is expected to be made early next week - just a week out from when the official contracting season starts, or as Taurua terms it, "the meat market opens".

Taurua has publicly endorsed her assistant Tanya Dearns for the role, but former NSW Swifts coach Julie Fitzgerald has emerged as a frontrunner for the job. Fitzgerald is believed to be one of two prominent Australian coaches who applied.

Taurua said she had only one firm plan in mind now her tenure is up with the side - "sleep".

The mother of five, whose contract with the Magic officially ends next month, said she intended to spend the next week relaxing and catching up on sleep before she began the end-of-season reviews.

"My shoulders can come off my ears and go back down to where they're supposed to belong," she said.

While some reports have spoken of Taurua's "desire" to coach one of the Australian franchises, the more likely path for her is to be involved with an international programme. Taurua has made no secret of her ambition to one day coach the Silver Ferns. That role won't come up until the end of 2015 at the earliest and in the meantime, the former Silver Ferns shooter will look to bolster her CV with some international coaching experience.

But she acknowledges her timing may be a little off, with most sides having already settled on their coaching line-ups in the lead-up to next year's Commonwealth Games.

"There have been little jobs pop up over the last two months and I thought 'yep, I could do that'. But I knew if I sort of concentrate on that it would take all my energy away from where I'm supposed to be with the team," she said.

"Who knows, I might end up in the Bahamas, or I might end up at Pak'n Save."

Firebirds 'go to' shooter not Vixens' only problem

While towering Queensland shooter Romelda Aiken is the obvious target, Melbourne believe stopping Nat Medhurst is just as vital in their battle for a berth in the transtasman netball grand final.

The Vixens host the Firebirds on Sunday afternoon with the winner to face minor premiers Adelaide in the grand final.

Melbourne lost their major semifinal against the Thunderbirds with a final-quarter capitulation 49-39 while Queensland shocked reigning premiers the Magic in the minor semifinal.

It made for an enticing battle with one of the best defence combinations in the ANZ Championships in Vixens Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor against one of the best attacking duos in Aiken and Medhurst.

Vixens skipper Chatfield predicted an even contest. The teams split the results in their last two meetings.

While Jamaican Aiken is the go-to player in the Firebirds' circle, Chatfield said Australian representative Medhurst was integral.

"She's their rock solid playmaker," test goalkeeper Chatfield said. "She might not do all the shooting and have much of a presence in the circle because Romelda's there but she's the one that gets the ball for Romelda every time. It's a massive job for me to limit the impact she has on the game."

Chatfield said the Vixens, losing grand finalists last year, were still stinging from their final quarter against the Thunderbirds.

The home side outmuscled Melbourne and piled on 18 goals to nine to take the match.

She said her team was battered and bruised after the "most physical match" she'd played in.

"It certainly wasn't pretty and it was such a letdown, that last quarter, considering the amount of hard work we put into the first three.

"They were willing to fight to the end no matter what it took and we weren't smart enough to rise above it."

- AAP

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 02 Sep 2014 02:11:54 Processing Time: 495ms