Magic run, Harrison hoist and 'Gangnam' dance
Netball - year-enderAARON GOILE
It was an eventful, successful, and groundbreaking time for netball this year.
Along with a fairly productive season for the Silver Ferns, who played in two inaugural tournaments, a New Zealand team got their hands on the trans-Tasman league title for the first time, we were stunned by the Harrison Hoist and the structure of the game in this country was shaken up.
On the international front, Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu produced a massive shock in her first selection of the year, naming Bailey Mes despite the 23-year-old Northern Mystics midcourter having only played one quarter in the trans-Tasman league for the season.
It was to be a testing time for the New Zealand midcourt, with several retirements and pregnancies forcing others to step up.
Mes didn't get on the court during an excellent Constellation Cup series for New Zealand, but Camilla Lees and Kayla Cullen showed promise.
The Ferns won the cup for the first time in their third attempt, doing so without injured skipper Casey Williams who was nursing tendonitis in her knees.
A strong first-up performance in Melbourne reaped the visitors a 54-52 win, before they returned to Auckland in front of a New Zealand-record crowd of 8800 at Vector Arena.
What looked like being a hiding - with the Ferns ahead by nine after the first quarter - turned into an absolute thriller, as the Aussies stormed back but lost 50-49.
The dead rubber in Christchurch was also going the home side's way despite the absence of the injured Maria Tutaia, however the Diamonds produced a determined display to take the contest 59-53.
The players were soon back at it in the maiden Quad Series which also featured England and South Africa.
In the first match against the Proteas in Adelaide Mes finally debuted, but didn't show much conviction in her half on court.
Taumaunu used the series to experiment with personnel to give them experience ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 world championships.
The Ferns won 63-27 and then beat England 61-43 in Newcastle, where they missed just two shots all night.
But a surprise move to leave Irene van Dyk on the bench and start Cathrine Latu for the game against Australia in Sydney backfired, with the Ferns belted 68-48 - coughing up the most goals they have ever conceded against any country.
New Zealand went on to beat England 57-46 in an underwhelming display in Wellington before again thumping South Africa 63-24 in Mt Maunganui, with Latu on after halftime and sinking 27 from 27.
Against the Diamonds in Hamilton, with the series unattainable due to an inferior goal percentage, the Ferns put out a superb display to round out the season in style.
Targeting that game, Taumaunu let her big guns loose, and they fired, with Williams and Leana de Bruin, in her 100th test, producing a masterclass defensive display.
Although trailing by four at quarter time, the Ferns won the second 16-10 and went on to take the match 48-43.
Laura Langman was named the Silver Fern of the year.
There was one more tournament to play but Taumaunu declared the six-team Fast5 event, a further tweaked version of short-form Fastnet, would be time for some fun.
The Ferns beat England 23-21 in the final, following a well-rehearsed pre-game Gangnam Style dance.
There were mixed reactions to the five-a-side game, which was played on a magenta court and involved one, two and three-point shots as well as a nominated powerplay quarter where teams double their points.
Crowd numbers at Vector Arena reflected the uncertainty around the new game, but it showed enough potential and difference from the norm to consider it becoming popular in years to come.
In the fifth edition of the trans-Tasman league, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic finally won the competition after being the only side to make the playoffs every year.
It was a fairytale ending to the Magic's season, which started with four consecutive losses and seemingly putting them out of contention.
But, needing to win their remaining nine regular season matches to make the top four, the Magic got on a remarkable roll and ended up third on the ladder.
In the minor semifinal against the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Hamilton the hosts were made to come from behind late in the game for a one-goal win, before they again looked beaten in the preliminary final against the Northern Mystics in Auckland, but managed to take the match to extra time and bound away to victory.
Then at Hisense Arena in Melbourne, the Magic produced yet another gutsy display to stun the Melbourne Vixens 41-38 in the grand final.
Trailing by three at three-quarter-time, the Magic stormed into the lead and held their nerve in front of a massive crowd of 9400, which included a decent chunk of noisy visiting fans.
The competitions was also the birth place of a lifting manoeuvre which gained huge publicity and popularity.
Employed by the Mystics in their clash against the Vixens at Hisense Arena in round eight, the Harrison Hoist, as it quickly became known, paved the way for a possible shift in the netball landscape.
Anna Harrison's aerial heroics, where she was lifted by her fellow defender Kayla Cullen and later Jessica Moulds to block goal-bound shots, had people wowing with amazement.
Interestingly, the move was hardly seen again until the Fast5.
On the NPC front, Canterbury's quest for a three-peat was terminated, with Otago beating Waikato 59-57 in the final.
There was also a major overhaul to the structure of netball in the country, with the green light given to replace the 12-region model with a five-zone one, which became operational on December 1.
What we liked: The Magic's fairytale finish. The Harrison Hoist. Fast5's three-point shots.
What we disliked: Casey Williams' injury worries. The Bailey Mes selection. Fast5's powerplays.
Crystal ball gazing: Taumaunu to keep rotating in Silver Ferns. The Magic to be the first defending champions to make the trans-Tasman league playoffs the following year. Fast5 to become more attractive and to lose the Gangnam dance.
- © Fairfax NZ News