Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: Mystics happy to survive for a final chance

A win over the Tactix was one of just three for the Mystics. Photo / Photosport
A win over the Tactix was one of just three for the Mystics. Photo / Photosport

By any measure, the Mystics are fortunate to be involved in the ANZ Championship playoffs.

The Auckland-based team, who face the Magic in the New Zealand conference elimination final this afternoon, have won just three matches all season. Those victories came against fellow cellar-dwellers the Pulse and Tactix, as well as the Thunderbirds, by far the worst team on the other side of the Tasman.

The Mystics have also copped some big losses (by 28 points to the Firebirds and 13 to the Vixens) and in the history of the competition, no franchise has qualified for the finals with less points (seven).

But thanks for the vagaries of the conference system, the Mystics are still alive - and that's all that counts.

"You get one day in the year to win a sudden death game of netball," said Mystics coach Debbie Fuller. "It's what you do in the other 364 days that you need to get right to give yourself a chance.

We've got an opportunity and we have talked about hitting this part of the season with positive momentum."

And perhaps it's not as bad as the bare statistics look. The Mystics have been beset by injuries this season and had close contests in all four matches against the Steel and Magic.

"In this competition, you need to compete to win and also grow at the same time," said Fuller.

"At the start of the season, we lost quite a few games. A lot were close but some blew out. But what we recognised every week was the growth of the team and individuals, and how people were progressing. We were improving but the scoreboard wasn't doing us any favours."

The Mystics showed positive signs in the final two rounds.

They came close to upsetting the Swifts before holding their nerve to beat the Tactix a week ago and clinch third in the New Zealand conference.

And after dealing with different line-ups all year, key players such as Maria Tutaia, Cathrine Tuivaiti, Serena Guthrie and Anna Harrison are fit and in form. Today shapes as another classic showdown in one of the rivalries that has defined the ANZ Championship.

The Magic have won the last three encounters, including close tussles 49-45 and 54-51 in 2016, so expect another narrow margin today.

"Business isn't finished yet," said Fuller. "It ain't over. Everyone had written us off halfway through the season but there is great character among this group. We are still going."

- Herald on Sunday

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