Irene van Dyk has quickly issued a warning that the Magic must lift their game if they are going to be a chance of defending their trans-Tasman league title.
Normally one of the more excitable characters on the netball scene, the 41-year-old shooting star was instead in a more philosophical mood in the wake of her team's 68-40 victory over the Northern Mystics in Mt Maunganui on Monday night, which earned them third spot and hosting rights for the minor semi-final against the Queensland Firebirds.
"Playing finals is totally a different ball game," van Dyk said. "The round robin games count for nothing, you can't even take anything out of the round robin games because it's a whole new step up, it's a whole new level up. Obviously we have a little bit of momentum but clearly we've got a lot to work on because there's a lot of ball that we threw away that was unforced errors really."
It took a stern halftime talk from coach Noeline Taurua to spark the Magic to their big win after they had been "frivolous" with the ball, according to van Dyk.
"Noels just basically said we need to get some energy, we need to lift a little bit because we're very flat and we just look lethargic out there. So I think she just gave us a kick on the backside."
Van Dyk said it was a "big bonus" having home advantage for Sunday's sudden death encounter.
"And we need to make sure that we make the most of it because, honestly, having your own people behind you makes a huge difference," she said.
"The Firebirds are playing sensationally, they are always dangerous, so it's going to be a big uphill road for us.
"They're going to come here for a fight, so we'll have to bring our A plus plus game and play our positive game."
Van Dyk's high workload (46/48) played a crucial part in Monday's victory and having been down on numbers during the season, the veteran was blunt in her self assessment.
"It's better. Bloody hell, it's about time that I get my volume up there, God.
"I think the goal defences have started to know that Ellen [Halpenny] would take the ball and shoot so it's started to put doubt in their mind, should they double on me. I think Ellen and my combination grow every week we play. We still lose ball here and there but you know, we've got those links and we get to understand one another a lot more now. Every day it feels better when we play."
Van Dyk suffered a nasty cut to the shin late in Monday's game, but it's not a worry, particularly in comparison to her opposite Bailey Mes, who had to be helped from the court with a serious looking knee injury.
The 24-year-old saw specialists yesterday, with the extent of the injury still unclear, though after the match she was positive.
"It feels all right at the moment.
"I think it always looks worse on the replay.
"I guess it's come at a good time, if there is one. I've got a few weeks and I think it'll come right."
Mes was a radical Silver Ferns midcourt selection last year and after impressive showings for the Mystics at her more accustomed position of goal shoot, it's thought she may be considered in the national squad as shooting cover.
"I'm definitely most comfortable there. My time in the midcourt probably wasn't amazing but I know it definitely helped me with my goal shoot [play].
"You run different lines so definitely the change of movement and that short, sharp stuff in the middle has helped with my movement in the circle because I was sort of traditionally more of a holder."
- Waikato Times
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