Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Revitalised Mystics just one win away from place in semifinals

Northern Mystics Anna Harrison in action during the 2016 ANZ Championship. Photo / Photosport
Northern Mystics Anna Harrison in action during the 2016 ANZ Championship. Photo / Photosport

In their coach's own assessment, the Northern Mystics have just "stumbled through" this season.

Three wins from 13 outings is not a record the Mystics can hang their hat on as they approach the ANZ Championship playoffs. Instead, they're taking confidence from their strengthened on-court connections and momentum they have built over the final rounds of the competition.

Despite their wayward form, the Auckland side now find themselves just one win away from a spot in the ANZ Championship semifinals.

The Mystics will take on the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic - another side that have largely failed to impress this season - in tomorrow's elimination final, with the winner to advance to take on the Southern Steel in next week's New Zealand conference final. Regardless of the outcome of that match, the two New Zealand conference finalists will progress to the transtasman league semifinals.

With their game plan seemingly having fallen into place over the past couple of weeks against the NSW Swifts and Mainland Tactix, Mystics defender Anna Harrison believes her side can yet be a force in the playoffs.

"Our structures and roles in the team are really starting to click into place and there is a bit more focus and if we can step the intensity up another notch this weekend, we will be hard to beat," said Harrison.

The Magic have a recent habit of letting the Mystics get out to an early lead, before upstaging them in the final quarter. In both their previous match-ups this season, the Mystics led at halftime but a drop-off in intensity saw the Magic charge through to claim the points.

Harrison is confident that won't happen tomorrow. She believes her side made a breakthrough against the Tactix in their must-win final-round clash last weekend, with the Auckland side pulling off a big 19-11 third quarter to effectively seal the game.

"At the beginning of the season I imagine teams were thinking 'we just have to stick with them in the first half and those third and fourth quarters are where we will get them'. But now we're actually pushing ahead in that third quarter and now it's a question of maintaining that intensity over the fourth," said Harrison.

Like the Mystics, the Magic have had several injury disruptions in the camp - the most serious of which has been to influential midcourter Grace Rasmussen. The Silver Fern wing attack has sat out the past two matches after a flare-up of a calf injury which sidelined her for the first six rounds.

Given the high incidence of injury in both sides, tomorrow's match may come down to which team can field a full-strength line-up and keep them on court.

The other knockout match this weekend sees the NSW Swifts take on the Melbourne Vixens in Sydney. The Swifts missed the opportunity to book themselves a week off and top seeding in the Australian conference in last week's final-round clash. Needing a win to keep in front of the Queensland Firebirds in the standing, the Swifts could manage only a draw against the plucky Southern Steel.

ANZ Championship

Elimination finals

New Zealand conference

Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic v Northern Mystics

Tomorrow, 4.10pm

Claudelands Arena, Hamilton

Australian conference

NSW Swifts v Melbourne Vixens

Tomorrow, 2.10pm

Sydney Olympic Park

- NZ Herald

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