They broke new ground with a maiden trans-Tasman netball crown, but the Waikato-BOP Magic's fairytale success has left them skint.
Rather than enjoy a cash windfall, New Zealand's inaugural champions are “out-of-pocket” after being asked to foot the bill for food and travel costs to their grand final triumph over the Vixens in Melbourne last Sunday.
Celebrations were held in Tauranga and Hamilton last week to toast the Magic's breakthrough Kiwi title, but those events masked the harsh financial realities for the struggling sport.
Netball exists in a challenging semi-professional climate where incentives are minimal.
No-one now appreciates that more than the short-changed Magic. Their golden moment was no golden ticket.
While the governing body - Trans-Tasman Netball League - covered flights and accommodation to Australia for the final, the Magic were forced to fork out for additional expenses from their already-depleted coffers, leaving them with a shortfall.
Star defender Casey Williams even had to spring for duty-free celebratory drinks.
No winner's prizemoney was available to balance the ledger, either. Pride - and dwindling funds - were the Magic's rewards for claiming netball's domestic showpiece for the first time.
“There is no prizemoney,” Magic chief executive Sheryl Dawson told the Sunday Star-Times.
“In fact, competing in the grand final we had to cover some of the costs to be there for the team.
"We had to cover the food and transport costs.
“The league flew the team over and provide two nights' accommodation. But, at the end of the day, it costs you for the privilege of being in the grand final in netball - that's the reality.
“Until the league is at a point where it has money to spend on these things, it's pretty tough for them as well.”
Dawson was hopeful the situation would be reviewed in future.
“I'm sure it will change with time. This is a young competition.
"As it gains momentum you will see some of those things change,” she said.
You could forgive the Magic for casting a resentful gaze at local neighbours the Chiefs.
The Magic are poor cousins compared with their rugby counterparts who banked over $500,000 for hosting Friday night's semifinal with the Crusaders in Hamilton.
Super Rugby final hosts take all gate earnings - ranging from $500,000 to $2 million depending on stadium capacity - and pay the visiting team a six-figure fee.
The NRL offers similar benefits.
Champions pocket $522,000.
The Warriors netted $261,000 for being runners-up last year.
A-League teams don't get prize money but this season each club receives $2.5m in funding from governing body the FFA.
The perception that netball doesn't deserve a larger slice of the commercial pie is misconstrued.
The Star-Times understands 350,900 people - marginally less than the figures for last week's Crusaders-Bulls qualifying final - tuned in to watch the Magic's conquest on Sky TV.
Yet not only was the team's revenue pilfered to cover costs, unlike rival Australasian athletes in rugby, league, basketball and football, Magic players did not receive performance bonuses.
“As far as bonuses go, we don't offer them to our players,” Dawson said. “They are paid for their services over the campaign.
"You could offer a bonus but that means they don't get paid as much throughout the season.”
Trans-Tasman Netball League chief executive Andy Crook is aware the Magic suffered a loss to attend the grand final, but pointed out the five-year-old competition either posted a deficit, or just broke even.
Crook was not in a position to offer prizemoney and couldn't see that changing.
“It is a reality of where the sport is at,” Crook said. “It's not on the agenda at the moment.
“The teams understand there are additional costs to the finals series.
"We rely on the grand final to cover costs of the other finals.
“If the Magic's unexpected out-of-pocket expenses are looking significant, they have the right to apply to us to cover that as much as possible,” Crook said.
- Sunday Star Times
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