Magic adopting attack strategy against Vixens
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic are going to unleash an all-out attack in their attempt to claim their first trans-Tasman netball league title tomorrow.
Far from content to play a conservative, limit-the-errors style in the ANZ Championship grand final against the Melbourne Vixens at Hisense Arena, the visitors want to leave nothing to spare and are going to look to attack both with and without the ball.
Magic coach Noeline Taurua felt her side got a bit tentative on defence in the preliminary final against the Northern Mystics and that is set to change.
"So, defensively, I definitely want to attack and just really get in the heads of the opposition," she said.
"In attack, I think we've been playing some beautiful, clinical netball but it's the final execution of everything, being able to wear that body, which is going to happen, obviously, defensively they're very strong."
The Vixens' three most experienced campaigners are in the defensive line, with Geva Mentor and captain Bianca Chatfield at the back and Julie Corletto likely to be at wing defence, although she can be interchanged with centre Madison Browne.
The Magic have an edge in experience at the other end of the court, where the greener Vixens shooters - Karyn Howarth, Tegan Caldwell and Kate Beveridge - will be up against the might of Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin.
But Taurua has warned that the hosts, who are looking to become the first side to win two titles, cannot be underestimated under the hoop.
"There was three or four games when they were down and those young ones put the shot up. One big thing about Vixens is that they're a great team unit and they have the ability to come from behind in those really crucial moments.
"So you cannot discount anyone on that court because they've been able to do the business and that's why they're number one. It'll be a great battle . . . both teams are very strong and obviously have that utter belief in themselves and have come from behind - so it's great, sets it up for a fantastic game."
The Magic, who will be in their change strip of red dresses, have been able to pull off big plays at the right time throughout the finals campaign, and their "inner strength and belief" was huge, Taurua said.
Their less experienced players - Elias Shadrock and Khao Watts in the midcourt - have stepped up and are providing a nice link to some star quality, with Irene van Dyk and Julianna Naoupu lethal when given enough ball.
The Magic, who will wear black armbands to pay respect to the death of van Dyk's mother, have been playing last-chance netball ever since their four losses at the start of the season and now they have a great chance to complete a remarkable turnaround.
"Going from 10th to number two has been a huge journey for us and we just want to really celebrate that we're there and not be scared of the venue or Vixens or what the hype's going to be around the game and just really go out there and live the moment," Taurua said of the contest which will be in front of a sellout 10,500 crowd.
This week the Magic's training sessions have been short and sharp, and they arrive in Melbourne this evening, having done everything they need to. "We're prepared. There just comes a time where you can't keep going, you can only fine-tune and thankfully, because of what's happened in previous weeks, we've been able to do that and do it quite successfully," Taurua said. "Usually when we've gone to semis and finals we've gone harder and faster and longer, so we've gone totally the different angle from what we've done in the past."
This is the third time the Magic have been to the grand final in the fifth year of the competition, and their last visit there in 2010 is such a long time ago now for Taurua that she doesn't even remember the lead-in to it.
At the outset of this season, Taurua, who has led the Magic to every finals playoffs, wanted her players to be able to tick four things off. One was for them to become mentally hard, another was for them to be able to execute under pressure, another was to show consistency from week to week, and the other was to win the ANZ Championship. After a shaky start, the Magic have been able to achieve three of those objectives, with one more great performance needed to get the quad.