The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic's trademark inconsistency reared its ugly head at the worst possible time, as they slumped to a nine-goal loss to the NSW Swifts in something of an anti-climax transtasman finale in Sydney.
The Magic were simply out-tricked in all departments as the shrewd Swifts, who weren't even rated finals chances at the beginning of the season, put in a masterful performance to become the first side to lift the ANZ Championship trophy.
It was always going to be a tall order for the Magic, who had lost both their two previous meetings against the Swifts and hadn't won across the Tasman all year.
With just one goal separating the two sides in Hamilton two weeks ago, another tight encounter was expected in the grand final last night, but the Magic looked shaky right from the opening whistle and were forced to play catch-up throughout.
While the Magic were able to creep back within two goals at times in both the third and fourth quarters, they were never able to sustain that pressure and each time the Swifts pulled away.
A despondent Magic captain, Amigene Metcalfe, admitted after the match that it was once again inconsistency that cost her side.
"I think we made too many errors, which has been the story of our season really," she said.
"We just weren't consistent enough tonight."
With five Silver Ferns in the Magic line-up, their performance raises serious concerns going into the international season.
Organisers had hoped for a record crowd in excess of 15,000 in Sydney, but it wasn't to be, with just over 12,000 at the Acer Arena for the monumental clash. A strong contingent of Waikato supporters crossed the Tasman for the encounter, but the cowbells were ominously quiet for most of the game, as the Magic struggled to gain a secure foothold in the match.
Magic coach Noeline Taurua stuck with the same line-up that beat the Adelaide Thunderbirds last week, having finally seemed to settle on the look of her attack end.
But after her team were forced to play catch-up netball throughout the match, Taurua made numerous changes.
The occasion looked to be getting the better of the Magic early on with their early phases of play punctuated by wayward passes. The Magic's links through the court were poor, with too many passes forced into the attacking third when the option wasn't on.
With the home side as clinical as ever down the other end of the court, the Swifts ensured they capitalised to the full extent, holding a 7-2 lead after just four minutes.
While the Magic were able to settle into their rhythm as the quarter wore on, they never fully recovered from the slow start and trailed 19-14 at the first break.
With Laura Langman taking on the wing-attack role for just the second time in her career, the Magic's new-look attacking end didn't appear to be gelling.
Though she made a good fist of the position last week, Langman did not look as comfortable against former international Selina Gilsenan, who announced her retirement from all netball after the match.
Gilsenan, in tandom with international-centre-in-waiting Kimberlee Green, did a real number on the Magic midcourt. With Langman struggling to find any room, she was switched back to her more familiar role during an injury break early in the second spell, which was prompted by the Swifts' opening up an eight-goal lead.
With the Magic trailing 34-28 at halftime, Taurua opted to end the experimentation with Irene van Dyk at goal-attack, moving the Silver Fern veteran back to goal-shoot, swapping bibs with Maria Tutaia.
But whichever line-up the Magic threw at the Swifts, the home side were able to counter, and they ran out convincing winners.By Dana Johannsen Email Dana