Hosting a grand final wasn't something the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic were considering, but last night it suddenly become something to aim for.
With the NSW Swifts being upset by the Northern Mystics in Auckland last night, the winner of tonight's last-round match between the Magic and Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton will claim second spot ahead of the Swifts on goal percentage.
Despite the Melbourne Vixens also being upset by the Southern Steel in Invercargill on Saturday, their superior percentage has seen them take top spot and hosting rights for the 1 v 2 major semifinal.
The winner of tonight's match will travel to Melbourne with a second life and the chance to get a week off and earn home advantage for the grand final, while the loser will go to Sydney for the do or die 3 v 4 minor semifinal and have no playoff games at home.
So although the top four teams are already decided, there is plenty to play for at Claudelands Arena tonight.
"We don't want to just go out there with that attitude of ‘oh well, if we lose, we're still going to be in the top four'," Magic captain Casey Kopua said.
The Magic were knocked over at Claudelands by the Firebirds in last year's minor semi and go into tonight's match as underdogs.
Their form of late has been patchy, suffering their biggest loss of the season in the previous round against the Swifts, while the visitors are on a five-match winning run and hammered the Central Pulse last weekend.
Kopua labelled the Magic's preparation week as "intense" and said they had been looking to find a balance between reverting to training routines that worked well for them during their early winning run while also looking at fresh ideas.
The skipper is wary of the threat the Firebirds' speedy midcourt poses, along with defender Laura Geitz (the Firebirds and Australian captain leads the competition for both intercepts and deflections), while she is in for a tough battle at her end of the court against 1.96m goal shoot Romelda Aiken.
"You could put 10 people in the circle and you won't get the ball, but every third or fourth ball that you can get we need to score off," Kopua said.
That will be done with a slicker effort in bringing the ball down court, with the Magic needing to eliminate their little lapses from their game.
"I think that's something that the girls have learnt, those critical moments, and when you can feel momentum shifting and sometimes how important it is to score a goal at that specific time," Kopua said.
- Waikato Times
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