The Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic head into this year's ANZ Premiership with new leadership, newly contracted players and a new-look shooting circle - but there is also plenty of experience.
The 2019 squad sees plenty of changes. Experienced defender and Silver Fern Casey Kopua returns as captain after injury last season, as does fellow key defender/Silver Fern Kelly Jury. Jenna O'Sullivan, Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou have new contracts for this season, which also means a new-look shooting circle, and of course new leadership in the form of coach - Magic foundation member and former Silver Fern Amigene Metcalfe.
The first round of New Zealand's elite netball league will be played at Hamilton's Claudelands Arena on Sunday, with Magic getting a home-ground start against Tactix. The first of three Super Sunday schedules will see all six teams in the competition - Splice Construction Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, Northern Mystics, Northern Stars, Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse, The Good Oil Tactix and Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel - start the season at Magic's home ground.
Opotiki-born Magic shooter Monica Falkner, who will be suiting up for her third season in the Waikato Bay of Plenty colours, is looking forward to getting the season started and believes the team's element of surprise is their biggest strength.
"I feel like it's pretty exciting. The two girls that are with me [in the circle] are pretty unknown in the ANZ comp and the element of surprise is probably what we have over some other teams. People won't really know what to expect in there which is an advantage for us," Falkner says.
Gelling with two new shooters means being able to form a lot of variations and styles of play in the circle, with Falkner saying it's exciting to see how they "can mix it up".
"Abigail has played in Australia for the last couple of years and she's bringing a whole different style to our game plan and teaching us a few things, as we are for her, which is also changing up our style in the circle a little bit and Kelsey coming from Beko, she's learning so much but she also has so much to offer - and that's with everybody."
The team has been working hard in the lead-up to the season and Falkner says everyone is keen to get out on the court for their first game hit out.
"We've been tracking on pretty nicely and just excited to get out on court for some real-time game play.
"Our team culture's really good, trainings have been awesome, everybody's been pushing each other as far as we can go and we'll see what we can produce [on Sunday]."
As the hosts of the season opener, Falkner is expecting a good turnout on Sunday.
"Apparently we're packing it out [the venue] slowly which is promising and it's very exciting to have all six teams in the same place, especially at home."
After Sunday's match, Magic go back-to-back, playing the Stars in Hamilton on Monday, February 25. Included in their fixtures for the season are Bay of Plenty games including one in Rotorua on March 4 and one in Tauranga on March 27, which Falkner says are always easier for her Opotiki, Waimana and eastern Bay family to attend.
"It's always exciting to play over there especially because I used to play there for secondary school quite a bit and I hardly ever came to Hamilton, but also it's a bit closer for my family to travel ... on the Mondays and Wednesdays it's always hard to get to Hamilton, it's an extra three-hour trip, so it's really exciting just to see some familiar faces and play on familiar courts over there."
The 2019 Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic team:
Casey Kopua (captain), Kelly Jury, Jenna O'Sullivan (newly contracted).
Samantha Sinclair (vice-captain), Ariana Cable-Dixon, Lisa Mather, Sydney Fraser.
Monica Falkner, Abigail Latua-Meafou (newly contracted), Kelsey McPhee (newly contracted).
Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic fixtures:
Magic v Tactix, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, 4pm.
Magic v Stars, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, 7.30pm.
Magic v Pulse, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua, 7.30pm.
Magic v Steel, ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill, 7.40pm.
Magic v Mystics, Eventfinda Stadium, Auckland, 4pm.
Magic v Stars, Trustpower Arena, Tauranga, 7.30pm.
Magic v Steel, The Trusts Arena, Auckland, 6pm.
Magic v Mystics, The Trusts Arena, Auckland, 7.30pm.
Magic v Stars, Pulman Arena, 7.30pm.
Magic v Tactix, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, 7.30pm.
Magic v Pulse, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington, 4pm.
Magic v Steel, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, 7.30pm.
Magic v Pulse, ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill, 2pm.
Magic v Mystics, Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, 4pm.
Magic v Tactix, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, 4pm.
Elimination final between 2nd and 3rd place teams, venue tbc, 7.30pm.
Grand final - 1st place team v winner of elimination final, venue tbc, 4pm.