Harten's Magic move pays off with finals shot

RIGHT CHOICE: Jo Harten in action for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
RIGHT CHOICE: Jo Harten in action for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

Jo Harten can now look back and know she made the right call.

When deciding where to go next with her netball career, a key thing for the English shooter to consider was where might give her the best chance to play in the trans-Tasman league playoffs - the pinnacle of the domestic game worldwide.

Having been in a struggling Tactix team the past two years, Harten decided the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic was for her, with the franchise losing Irene van Dyk to the Central Pulse.

Turns out the 25-year-old got it spot on, with the Magic, for the second year straight, being the only New Zealand team to make the finals. That keeps up their record of being the only side in the competition to make the top four every year.

"One of the reasons I shifted to Magic was the winning culture they have, and the finals experience they've had," Harten said.

"And even though it's a different team and we've got, I think, nine new players in this roster this year, we've still made the finals.

"So that just shows you about the franchise and about where this Magic team sits."

Harten has proved a superb acquisition, slotting 443 goals at 90.2 per cent and also providing a running attacking role. With her 52 tests for England, she has plenty of experience at the top level, but is looking forward to something different in Sunday's minor semifinal against the NSW Swifts in Sydney.

"I've watched finals netball before and I've played in a few pressure matches for England in terms of Commonwealth Games and world championships, so I should expect that I'd feel a bit like that, probably nervous, probably excited, and it'll be a huge occasion, especially playing in the Allphones Arena in Sydney."

With a capacity of 16,681, that stadium will be humming with home-team support, but Harten said that wouldn't faze the Magic.

"Any netballer would be crazy not to want to play in front of that, it doesn't matter if you're home or away. So we're all really excited about playing over there.

"And we won't see those shirts as red and white Swifts fans, we'll see them as Magic fans, and every cheer the crowd makes we'll be thinking it's for us."

Having missed six shots in both her last two games, Harten admitted the shooting had been a focus to get right, and when game time comes it was about being confident and calm after all the hard work is done beforehand.

Although she's expecting the intensity to rise, being a finals match, as well as a bit more pressure attached, particularly with it being sudden death, Harten said it will be important "to let it go".

"You've just got to free-flow your game and not think about the bigger picture, you've got to take every ball as it comes and each moment by moment, because if you start thinking about every pass you make and every goal you score could lead to another game, you kind of lose yourself a bit.

"So for me it'll be about staying in the moment on Sunday, playing what I see, playing what's in front of me and then just seeing what happens."

The Magic fly out tomorrow morning.

Waikato Times