The Magic's Aussie import is feeling no conflict at playing the Adelaide Thunderbirds, Aaron Goile reports.
Khao Watts hasn't yet been in the country for half a year, but she appears to be quickly losing her Australian roots.
The Aussie twang is still loud and clear but the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic import has hardly deliberated over the fact she is coming up against her home state today.
The Magic host the top of the table Adelaide Thunderbirds in Mt Maunganui this afternoon in their penultimate regular season game of the ANZ Championship, and while the South Australian born and bred Watts could have some mixed emotions ahead of the contest, she is fully entrenched in focusing on her own team.
"I suppose the thought does come into your head but I'm approaching this game like any other," the wing attack said.
"We've got two massively important games and it's just taking one at a time.
"They're just an opposition that we need to beat to make the four."
Watts, who grew up watching the Thunderbirds in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, won't be giving the Magic any great insight into them – it's not like she has played for them – but she does know a few of the less distinguished players.
"I've had a bit to do with some of them," she said of her days playing for South Australia in the Australian Netball League.
Watts has grown into her role with the Magic well since paying her own way over for a trial last year.
She now has the chance to help push her side to the playoffs, with the Magic needing to win one, maybe both, of their last two games.
"I think we're kind of used to the pressure situations," Watts said.
"Ever since round four we've had our back up against the wall; you lose, you might not make the finals.
"We try and make the training environment harder than what it's going to be out on court, so when we're faced with those higher physical pressure situations we can cope better with them."
A win today would equal the Magic's record of eight consecutive victories, but they are going to have to bring the intensity which they displayed in a gutsy win over the Northern Mystics last weekend.
The Thunderbirds are coming off a 27-goal thrashing of the New South Wales Swifts in Sydney, and possess a starting lineup of six Australian Diamonds players and a former Jamaican international in goal shoot Carla Borrego.
Watts said the Thunderbirds' quick release into the 1.93m shooter was something her defenders were ready for and wanting to stop.
Magic coach Noeline Taurua said the Thunderbirds, who have a 3-4 record against her side, would test out how good the Magic's strategies were.
She said coming up against the Australian playing style of man-on-man defence would require her players to be patient.
"If we don't have the line on the ball, [we need to ensure] that we can reset or play another angle and re-present," she said. "So we can't get caught up in the man-to-man and start fighting that, just be a bit smarter in what we want to do and what we want to achieve."
Taurua felt recent games had been progressive stepping stones towards their next matches, and she isn't concerned the continual pressure of needing to win will take a toll.
"We're on a great pathway, I believe, and we're doing some beautiful things," she said.
"Now we feel like we're in the business end of things and this is the end that matters.
"So we've just got to be disciplined and focused and keep doing what we're doing but looking to do it better."
AT A GLANCE
What: ANZ Championship, round 13 Who: Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic v Adelaide Thunderbirds Where: TECT Arena, Mt Maunganui When: 4.20pm today TAB: Magic $1.85, Thunderbirds $1.85
- © Fairfax NZ News
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