Waikato-BOP Magic ready to back up in semifinal

Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
julie fitzgerald

WISE WORDS: Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald rallies her players during the ANZ Championship minor semifinal win over the Swifts at the Allphones Arena on Sunday.

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Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald is confident her side can get themselves up again for their trans-Tasman league preliminary final.

After a physically and mentally draining last-gasp minor semifinal victory over the New South Wales  Swifts in Sydney on Sunday and the travel back to New Zealand yesterday, the Magic have just a few days on deck before flying across the ditch to again try and keep their season alive.

Their destination was confirmed last night, with the Vixens beating the Firebirds 52-47 in the major semifinal in Melbourne.

While the Vixens get a break and hosting rights for the grand final, the Magic and Firebirds will do battle at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre next Monday night to decide who goes through to the decider.

Like their minor semifinal against the Swifts, this sets the Magic up for a crack at an opponent they lost to just a fortnight prior, having gone down to the Firebirds 59-55 in Hamilton in the last round of the regular season.

Fitzgerald said this training week would be run similar to the last one, with a focus on not over-doing the intensity, as her players come down from the high of their 50-49 come-from-behind win and refocus on the next obstacle.

''I think the way that we've approached this whole season will make that easy for us,'' she said. 

''We have always said that we work week by week, game by game, we never look to far ahead, and I think that that mentality that we carried into this [last] week will carry into next [this] week and that'll serve us in good stead.''

Fitzgerald was stoked with Sunday's efforts, in what she labelled a ''tremendous performance'', feeling that her players showed real character in getting the team over the line.

''I think we've learnt a few lessons over the last few weeks and we almost put it all together,'' she said.

''There were little things that we can certainly do better and adjustments that we can make so that we can be a better team again. They're small things now.

''There's nothing like the confidence gleaned from a fight back like that, and the learnings for the young players in particular.''

Fitzgerald was eager to point out the role of the bench players in the victory, with captain Casey Kopua saying it was an electric feeling when looking their way for inspiration.

''The support that they give the players on the court and the vibe that they send out there is invaluable to our team's success,'' Fitzgerald said.

As much as that might be the case, the impact from the coach herself can't be underestimated.

She has been able to come in cold, quickly mould a team into a winning one and instil belief.

''She's huge,'' Kopua said. ''She's the main one that holds us all together, has those inspirational words.''

With the Magic facing off against all Australian sides in the playoffs it would seem advantageous that their coach is from that part of the world and knows a lot of their players and their style of play, but she discounts any success being a direct result of that.

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''Look, I don't think it's because I'm an Australian. I think that in this day and age, with all the analysis that we've got, and the people who do that for us, there's not too many unknown quantities out there anymore.

''We just knew what we had to do, and at times have let ourselves down by not doing it. I think we've always had the belief that we could beat anyone, as long as we put a good game together.''

- Waikato Times

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