Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic draw respect from Langman for playoff

Silver Ferns star faces her old side after toiling for her Swifts stripes.
Veteran Kiwi midcourter Laura Langman's flying high with the Swifts despite moments of self-doubt after crossing the Tasman. Picture / Daily Telegraph
Veteran Kiwi midcourter Laura Langman's flying high with the Swifts despite moments of self-doubt after crossing the Tasman. Picture / Daily Telegraph

Even after 131 consecutive tests for the Silver Ferns, Laura Langman still had her moments of doubt she could cut it across the Tasman.

Seeking a fresh challenge, Langman, one New Zealand netball's most recognisable faces, made the shock decision to chase an ANZ Championship contract at the end of last season. She was quickly snapped up by the NSW Swifts after Netball NZ granted the veteran midcourter exemption to play overseas.

From the outside, it appears Langman has slotted seamlessly into the star-studded Swifts. The athletic midcourter's speed, footwork and strong tracking abilities make her naturally suited to the one-on-one defensive style the Australians play.

But the apparent speed and ease in which Langman cemented her place in the Swifts' midcourt has masked the hard work that went on behind the scenes.

The Ferns' star said there were moments early on when she wondered if she had bitten off more than she can she could chew.

"There were definitely times when self-doubt set in," said Langman, who will on Monday night face her old side the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in the semifinals.

"I think within the first two days I said to my husband, 'I think I'm going to be coming home with you on Wednesday'.

"The rumours around the level of expectation and quality that is demanded among the team was very true and I quickly had to get my ducks in a row and front up, and be able to do that time and time again."

Langman said the most difficult adjustment was learning the Swifts game style. With the bulk of the NSW team having been together for some time, it made for some humbling moments for her.

"It was a real challenge to set aside my natural tendencies and not go off fishing as I call it. It required a lot of discipline," she said.

"And also learning to judge when to play each style was a massive challenge for me, and still is."

Langman said she still isn't at the point where she feels entirely comfortable in the Swifts set-up, but she sees it as a good thing. After all, it was a desire to get out of her comfort zone that saw the veteran midcourter seek out a contract in Australia.

"As a sportsperson you never know how big your window is and how long you're going to go, and I wanted to see how far I could go."

The Swifts are hoping Langman can take them as far as another ANZ Championship title. The Sydney-based side won the first transtasman league title in 2008, and they believe it will only be fitting for them to end the competition with the trophy as well.

But the Swifts faltered badly last week, suffering an 11-goal loss to the Queensland Firebirds in the Australian conference final, to set up a match against surprise New Zealand champions, the Magic.

Langman, who captained the Magic to New Zealand's sole transtasman league title in 2012, knows just how dangerous her former side can be in playoff netball.

"They're a team that has shifted hugely towards the end of the season and all the players are really coming to the forefront in terms of form," she said.

"Their experience in finals series is paying dividends for them and they know how to rise to the occasion, which is a huge belief to have."

In the other semifinal, the Southern Steel must pick themselves up from last week's shock loss and travel to Brisbane to take on the defending champion Queensland Firebirds.

- NZ Herald

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