If there's one thing that Julianna Naoupu won't be thinking about this weekend it's netball.
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic goal attack is preparing herself for Monday night's ANZ Championship minor semifinal against the Adelaide Thunderbirds but is making sure mental preparation takes a back seat, after admitting over-thinking affected her negatively in her last outing.
The 22-year-old is vowing to be back at her best after a self-labelled below par effort in the final regular season match against the Queensland Firebirds.
"Monday night's game wasn't the flashest game I'd played for the season," Naoupu said. "Stats don't say it but for me it was one of those games where I was not all there."
And that all came about because of a change of routine.
"Weekends are free for us and the weekend that's just gone, all I thought about was netball, how are we going to do this, how are we going to do that?," Naoupu said.
"I'd done things that I hadn't done before and just coming into the game I was like, `Oh no I haven't done this, I haven't done that'," she said.
"Call it superstitions and all that stuff, the girls are quite good at that stuff, but I'm like, `Oh no, don't get me involved'. But, no, it's a good thing, so back to the routine on Monday night.
"I'm not the sort of person who would like to think on court, otherwise things just turn to custard, so everything's all on instinct and just play [it] as you see [it]."
Naoupu said her routines got out of whack due to nerves, with the playoffs being around the corner and the fact the Magic had a poor record against the Firebirds.
Late in the match Naoupu left the court with cramp in both legs but she suffered no ill-effects.
So too are all the other Magic players, despite some having coming out of that match with small niggles.
Naoupu said nothing is going to change in the team's preparations, despite it being finals time, because it has worked so well in their run of nine successive victories.
"I guess there is a feeling of excitement but there's also [a feeling that] we don't want to over-do ourselves in the way that we haven't done the last nine weeks," she said.
"If we keep to our structure and keep doing what we're doing in our routines we will be sweet."
The Magic's inability to convert playoff appearances into titles gets spoken about by the team each time they make it, Naoupu said, and she sees their fortunes changing this time.
"We're going to go the whole way. We haven't peaked."
The Thunderbirds travel to Sydney today, before flying to Auckland tomorrow.
Naoupu said that after her team thrashed them by 17 goals a fortnight ago, the visitors will come out firing.
"The physicality will be there, they'll be way more hungry for the ball, way more mongrel, twice as bad as what they were before."
- © Fairfax NZ News