Magic remembered for under-achievement
OPINION: So ''The Dynasty of Disappointment'' appears done for.
Last weekend's early playoff exit for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic seems to have signaled the end of an era that will be remembered for under-achievement.
Coach Noeline Taurua hung up her whistle and that appears to be a sign for the Magic's star trio of Irene van Dyk, Casey Kopua and Laura Langman to head to new franchises.
That would mean three of world netball's best players have delivered just one trans-Tasman title in six seasons. That's a meagre return.
A lack of silverware for the star-studded lineup since the conception of the ANZ Championship in 2008 has been glossed over chiefly because the rest of the Kiwi clubs have produced displays ranging from capable to abysmal.
The Tactix are an embarrassment, the Pulse have improved from joke to marginally credible, the Steel have been eminently forgettable and the Mystics occasionally worthy before this year's shambles.
Even when the Kiwi teams were asked to play their Aussie rivals just once per campaign, the Australian sides continued to dictate terms in the regular and post-season.
So in comparison to the rest of the NZ rabble, one title, two grand final defeats and a playoff appearance every year makes the Magic look like Manchester United.
But Taurua and her troops should have been able to extract more from their abundance of talent.
At one stage during their careers, van Dyk and Kopua have been the game's dominant player worldwide, while Langman has long been one of the best international midcourters.
Yet their trans-Tasman competition career has been marked with just one league victory, despite being part of a side which also regularly featured an international class defender in Joline Henry or Leana de Bruin and other handy sidekicks.
No other side has collected more than one title - but no team has been as stacked as the Magic.
The rugby equivalent would be the Crusaders - but only if they always had the services of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter along with the likes of Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and Sam Whitelock.
Even though they don't, coach Todd Blackadder is placed under the microscope like an ant in a magnifying glass from a torturing child. Taurua doesn't get the same heat.
Despite the kid gloves, the Magic mafia can be a tremendously thin-skinned group.
There has been a stream of pricklish complaints from within the camp about newspaper reports criticising them when they've played poorly - patently ignoring all the praise they've received over the years of extensive coverage - and there was the memorable case of Taurua's partner sending expletive-laden emails to another newspaper over a story on the coach.
Taurua's charges have been incredibly loyal to her - The Big Three have all at times been offered lucrative contracts elsewhere, with improved salaries that a Magic side maxed out on the salary cap couldn't match.
But should a coach be regarded as such a tight friend? Would Sir Alex Ferguson give his players a ride to training?
Not that there's many opportunities to grab a lift with the coach, when the Magic train twice a week as a team. I've played in amateur football teams with players closer to drawing a pension than winning world titles that train the same amount.
In a semi-professional competition, that's a semi-professional approach that falls way short of the standards set across the Tasman.
And now it's likely the key trio may all leave - van Dyk and Langman to the Pulse, Kopua to the Mystics.
But not before appearing to hold the franchise to ransom over the appointment of the new coach, with the desire for Taurua's recent assistant Tanya Dearns to get the role. The Magic board instead made a bold but necessary move in choosing Julie Fitzgerald to shake things up.
Will Fitzgerald see the appeal in an aging van Dyk - still a remarkably accurate shooter but increasingly easier to negate? Injuries have been catching up with Kopua, who while still a formidable presence isn't the overwhelming force she once was.
Unfortunately for Fitzgerlad, the staggering lack of youth development - no young player from the region has stamped themselves as the next star since the emergence of Langman and Kopua - immediately makes her task far greater than any Taurua faced during her reign.
Would starting from scratch - but with a large chunk of scratch to spread around - be any worse than maintaining a side whose Magic moment was a rare highlight in what should have been a long-running spectacular?
- Waikato Times