For those of you searching for a Kiwi connection to hold your interest in the ANZ Championship final now that New Zealand's only title chance has been eliminated, Inner Circle has found it.
This weekend's grand final showdown between the Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds will be Whangarei-born shooter Catherine Cox's final transtasman league game.
Cox (pictured), who moved to Australia at seven when she didn't know any better, announced her retirement from international netball and also signalled this will be her last season in the league.
The 38-year-old joined the Vixens this year after stints with the West Coast Fever and the NSW Swifts and now has a chance to wrap up a brilliant career with another title.
While the veteran shooter has spent a lot of time on the bench this season, with the Vixens favouring the pairing of Karyn Bailey and Tegan Caldwell in the shooting circle, Cox has proved a handy impact player, offering a more mobile option in the circle. Her fearless approach in going to the post will be a key asset if she is called upon.
New Zealand is behind you, Catherine.
The Vixens and Firebirds are both chasing their second transtasman league title on Sunday, with the Vixens claiming the trophy in 2009, while the Queensland side won the big prize in 2011 with a dominant win over the Mystics. This will be the Firebirds' third grand final in four seasons after falling to the Adelaide Thunderbirds last year.
The Firebirds' impressive form shows the influence of their two bookends -- star defender and inspirational captain Laura Geitz and import shooter Romelda Aiken. With the Firebirds' frontline of Amy Wild and Verity Simmons playing in their first grand final, and the Vixens similarly having a couple of youngsters in midcourters Liz Watson and Kate Maloney, the result could come down to the performances of the rookies.
Down, but looking up
Despite being ousted from the playoffs last week, the Magic are chuffed with their campaign this year. The perennial finalists were expected to slide down the ladder this season after an upheaval in the team in the off-season. But new coach Julie Fitzgerald did an impressive job of moulding the new-look line-up into title contenders. The focus now is building on what they've achieved this year, and Fitzgerald has hinted only a few minor tweaks will be made. English import Jo Harten, who has returned to the UK to join her national side as they prepare for next month's Commonwealth Games, is locked in for next year, having signed a two-year deal with the Magic.
Ferns fire up
The Magic's playoffs exit means Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu will soon have her full complement of players available as their build-up to the Glasgow tournament intensifies. The New Zealand squad, minus the Magic players who have a mandatory two-week break, were again in camp in Auckland this week, focusing on fitness and skill work. Their next camp will be held from June 30 to July 4, and the Ferns fly to the UK on July 14, where they will put the finishing touches on their preparation in Bath.
Tutaia sticks with Mystics
The Northern Mystics have re-signed Silver Fern shooting ace Maria Tutaia for next year's season. Tutaia, who was captain this year, will return for her sixth season with the side and is keen to build on the Mystics' strong end-of-season form. In their last two ANZ Championship games the side beat the Perth-based West Coast Fever and the high-flying NSW Swifts. The Mystics have also confirmed that 19-year-old Temalisi Fakahokotau will suit up for the Auckland team again next year after a breakthrough year in the transtasman league. The athletic defender made the most of her chances, and by the end of the season was in the starting line-up.
Tactix shooter Mwai Kumwenda has been rewarded for her outstanding debut season, being named as the ANZ Championship's best new talent for the season. The 24-year-old Malawian international has made a significant impact on the ANZ Championship in her first year. Kumwenda's 540 goals, at 91.4 per cent accuracy, resulted in her finishing the regular season as the ANZ Championship's leading shooter, nine goals ahead of last year's best new-talent winner, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
ANZ Championship -- Grand Final
Melbourne Vixens v Queensland Firebirds
Hisense Arena, Melbourne, 4.15pm, Sunday
Previous finals meetings:
Major semifinal, 2014: Vixens 52 bt Firebirds 47, Hisense Arena, Melbourne.
Preliminary final, 2013: Firebirds 50 bt Vixens 46, State Netball Hockey Centre, Melbourne.