Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Centre circle: Hometown milestone for Langman

Mystics midcourter beats van Dyk and Kopua to 100th ANZ Championship game, against Magic in Hamilton.

Laura Langman gets to 100  first as Casey Kopua's Magic  had a bye in round 7 and Irene van Dyk's   Pulse have their break.  Photo / Getty Images
Laura Langman gets to 100 first as Casey Kopua's Magic had a bye in round 7 and Irene van Dyk's Pulse have their break. Photo / Getty Images

Energetic midcourter Laura Langman will fittingly become the first player to record 100 ANZ Championship games this weekend. Even more fittingly, she'll notch up the milestone in her hometown of Hamilton against former team, the Magic.

Heading into the season, Langman was one of three long-serving Magic players on 92 games, with Irene van Dyk and Casey Kopua also having played every game for the franchise from 2008-2013. But Langman reaches the milestone first as Kopua's Magic side had a bye in round seven, while van Dyk will be out of action this weekend as the Pulse have their break. Hmmm... perhaps there was a bit more strategy behind Langman's move to the Mystics?

The team unity in the Magic camp has been obvious since they first hit the court, with new coach Julie Fitzgerald doing a good job of building a cohesive team unit in a short space of time. It was helped by the fact the Magic's four out-of-town players - English import Jo Harten, Canterbury's Ellen Halpenny and Bessie Manu, and Sydney-born Kiwi Courtney Tairi - all flat together in Hamilton.

So what do they do on their week off? They all go on holiday together of course.

Tairi, Harten and Halpenny made the most of their bye week by jetting to Queenstown for a (sanctioned) mini-break.

After a couple of awful performances early in the season the Pulse seem to have found their rhythm, climbing back into the top four with with their win over the Steel on Monday.

In doing so the Pulse jumped two points clear of the mid-table congestion, but with a bye this week they could sink back into the mire. As the table sits, fifth through eighth are all on six points, setting up what is likely to be the closest run-in to the finals yet over the second half of the season.

In previous seasons, four losses has been the cut-off point for the finals, but with all the teams capable of stealing wins off one another, it is looking like the old guidelines will mean little.

It was an unhappy homecoming for former Mystics player Jessica Moulds on Monday night, with the young defender carried off the court in the second quarter with a season-ending injury. Moulds, who moved to the Tactix in search of more court time, ruptured her Achilles tendon and is expected to be out of the game for a significant stretch.

Not only is it a massive blow for the likeable youngster, it is a big loss for the Tactix with Moulds the most experienced defender in an already young defensive line. There is no word yet on who the Tactix will bring in as a replacement player, but their options are limited.

Robyn Broughton threw a few barbs the Steel's way at the post-match press conference following the Pulse's win over her old side. Evidently Broughton is not a fan of the Steel's gameplan, which is centred around Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler-Reid - as any team would when they have a 1.98m shooting machine at their disposal.

After being pushed hard for 45 minutes of the match, Broughton said she always had confidence her side would pull ahead in the final spell. You see, she expected the Steel would tire in the final quarter as it must get boring doing the same thing over and over again. Ouch.

Across the ditch

Watson in Aussie squad
Vixens rookie Liz Watson has been rewarded for her impressive start to the season with a call-up to the Australian squad. The young midcourter, playing in her first year in the ANZ Championship, was only included in the Vixens line-up after Elissa Kent withdrew from the side weeks out from the start of the season after announcing she is expecting her first child.

Pitman repays Plummer
A bold call by Norma Plummer inspired the Fever to a stunning 48-42 come from behind win over the Firebirds. When star goal attack Natalie Medhurst was forced from the court late in the third quarter with a severely bloodied nose, Plummer threw the goal attack bib to midcourter Chelsea Pitman, who hasn't played in the shooting circle since age-group days. It proved a stroke of genius, with Pitman helping open up the Fever attack end and had the confidence to go to the post.

Medhurst sees funny side
It was just as well Pitman delivered as it was an accidental run-in with her elbow that forced Medhurst from the court. The Australian star took it in good humour though, later tweeting to Pitman "know uve been wanting to play GA 4 a while but reckon it was a cheap shot! #strayelbow". She also posted an eye-watering photo of the aftermath, making use of erm, feminine products to stem the bleeding.

Golden bib - round 7

Shooter - Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (Steel) 147 points
Midcourt - Madison Robinson (Vixens) 95 points
Defence - Laura Geitz (Firebirds) 89 points
Inner Circle's (still unsponsored) wing defence of the year
Gabi Simpson (Firebirds)

- NZ Herald

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