The Northern Mystics have been denied the 2019 Super Club Netball title after a late surge from the Collingwood Magpies.
Having made an impressive run through to the final of the exhibition tournament in Nelson, the Mystics fell at the final hurdle tonight. The lead changed hands several times in the final, with the Mystics holding the advantage as late as seven minutes to go in the final quarter, but a seven-goal run from the Magpies sealed a 49-42 win for the only Australian side in the competition.
For a Mystics side who finished last with just four wins in the 2019 ANZ Premiership, the de-facto pre-season campaign for the 2020 season – which starts in late March – showed promising signs for the perennial underachievers.
Their defence looks particularly formidable, with Phoenix Karaka, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson all in great form throughout the tournament, and Karaka reflected on the turnaround their team has had.
"We've come from literally the bottom of the table and we're here in the final - I couldn't be prouder of the things we've achieved this week."
A key match-up in the final saw 17-year-old Mystics shooter Grace Nweke go up against English international Geva Mentor. Mentor was selected for England in 2000, two years before Nweke was even born, but both players shone for their respective teams.
Nweke played the full match at goal shoot, netting 30 of her 33 attempts and grabbing four rebounds. Mentor didn't make her job easy though, with four gains, three intercepts, and forcing Nweke into making errors.
At the other end of the court, 1.95m Jamaican Shimona Nelson was pivotal in the Magpies' win, with 32 goals and four rebounds, but was well supported by former Australian international Nat Medhurst, who was the game's MVP as the Magpies' class eventually shone through.
However, the Mystics look like true contenders for the 2020 Premiership, as do the defending champion Central Pulse, who finished third after beating the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 47-45.
The Magic improved greatly every game in their start to life without stalwart defender Casey Kopua, but will be hoping that defender Jenna O'Sullivan recovers from a serious shoulder injury sustained on Thursday.
In the other consolation games, the Southern Steel came out on top against a persistent Tactix side to finish fifth overall. The Tactix were without captain Jane Watson and key defenders Temalisi Fakahokotau and Charlotte Elley, while talented midcourter Kimiora Poi was limited to only two quarters due to an ankle injury, as they finished in sixth. The Northern Stars had a dominant performance against the winless Wasps to finish the tournament in seventh place.
The tournament also doubled as a trial for the Silver Ferns, who visit the United Kingdom for the Nations Cup in January.
Coach Noeline Taurua described her options as "salivating" as she ponders adding some new faces to the squad after the retirement of Kopua and the likely absence of Maria Folau.
"It was great to see individuals and whether they can stand up.
"We're spoilt for choice."