Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Classy Magic full of tricks

Little time for Mystics to sort out shooting problems with classy Pulse looming next.

Louise Thayer of the Tactix defends Jo Harten (right) of the Magic. Photo / Getty Images
Louise Thayer of the Tactix defends Jo Harten (right) of the Magic. Photo / Getty Images

It was no fluke. The Magic proved they still are a real force in the transtasman league with a clinical 14-goal rout over the Mystics at Trusts Stadium last night to improve their dominant record over their northern rivals.

The signs were there last week that the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side, who had to rebuild their team virtually from scratch after losing nine players, including Silver Ferns stars Irene van Dyk and Laura Langman in the off-season, were still one of New Zealand's premier teams, when they demolished the Tactix in their opening round clash.

But given the calibre of their opposition, doubts remained over how the Magic would stack up against more experienced sides. The answer was - quite well, actually.

A typically superb defensive performance from Silver Ferns stars Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin springboarded the Magic to their 12th win over the Mystics in 15 meetings.

Just as last night's match confirmed pre-season predictions of the Magic's demise were a little hasty, it also proved the Mystics' round one horror show against the Vixens can't simply be chalked up to a bad day at the office.

There are some major kinks in the Mystics game plan that need ironing out, and with the Central Pulse - another line-up laden with past and present internationals - up next weekend, they have little time to sort it out. As Mystics coach Debbie Fuller noted after last night's match "there's only so long you can play the 'early days' card".

A team known for their creativity and flair on attack, the Mystics tend to rely on their defence end to off-set their own error-rate by supplying them with plenty of turnover ball.

But without their key ball-getters in Anna Harrison, who continues to battle a foot injury, and an all-new defensive end struggling to gel, the Auckland side couldn't make the defensive impact they needed.

But it is the Mystics much-vaunted shooting combination of Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu that is causing the biggest headache for Fuller after the opening two rounds.

After producing their worst shooting performance in their history last week, netting just 59.6 per cent of their shots at goal, the Mystics were only marginally better last night recording a 65 per cent return.

Latu was especially quiet, contributing just eight goals to the Mystics' paltry total of 36. Much of the credit for that has to go to the efforts of Kopua and de Bruin, who put their opposition under huge pressure from the outset.

Fuller said the inability of her shooters to put the ball through the hoop in their opening two clashes has been extremely disappointing, and questioned whether Latu and Tutaia had become too predictable.

"Maybe you get to a point in your career where the predictability of your game is very obvious. I'm not saying that is the sole reason, but you have to keep changing your game and adapting," she said.

"Being able to shoot through the pressure was something we talked about a lot this week and we need to be able to manage that if we are going to be contenders.

"Once we get to a point where we can put it into space and we're not creating stress for ourselves we'll be able to score."

Magic 50
Mystics 36

Shooting stats

* Cathrine Latu 8/11
* Maria Tutaia 13/22
* Bailey Mes 15/23

* Jo Harten 30/31
* Ellen Halpenny 20/27.

- NZ Herald

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