Winning culture brought Jo Harten to Magic

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2013
Jo Harten
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
TALENTED PLAYER: Jo Harten will join the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

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Despite evolution at the Magic, their strong on-court record is what drew England international Jo Harten to the Waikato-Bay of Plenty franchise.

The classy shooter was this week announced as the Magic's import for the next two ANZ Championship seasons as they seek to fill the big void left under the net by Irene van Dyk, who's moved to the Central Pulse.

Not that Harten sees her role as a replacement for the veteran.

''I mean, replacing the best shooter in the world? I don't think that's my job when I go to the Magic,'' the 24-year-old said from England. ''I'm certainly not the next Irene van Dyk, and I would never hail to be that. But I'll give it my best shot doing what I can do.''

The 1.88m Harten debuted for her country as a teenager in 2007 and has made big strides since, including starring as the leading light at a struggling Tactix franchise for the past two years.

She had been keen to return to Christchurch, but all that changed with last month's announcement that van Dyk would be leaving the 2012 champions.

''I wasn't really going out hunting for other teams, because I was quite settled at the Tactix, to be honest,'' Harten said. ''But when this opportunity came up with the Magic, I thought it was too good to turn down.

''Seeing Irene had left, it obviously meant there was a shooting spot available in the team so I had a few emails with Julie [new Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald] just to see what her thoughts were and basically see if there was any interest there.

''It was a long process, to be honest. I had an offer from Tactix on the table and then over a few-week period, an offer with Magic came about.''

Harten said it was a hard decision to leave the Tactix, but the shift to the Magic would move her out of her comfort zone and help freshen her game.

''It was just literally a case of where I could perform best and especially leading up to the Commonwealth Games next year and the world champs the year after that, how can I perform best as an athlete and really push myself in every single training, because it's not just about the games you play, it's about what you do every single day leading up in these next two years.''

Harten said while she was not privy to the Magic's roster when she signed, the potential line-up excited her and playing with Silver Ferns was a ''drawcard''.

The fact she would be able to train against Leana de Bruin and hopefully Casey Kopua would boost her game, Harten felt.

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''If you're playing against those guys, I'm thinking about that match two, three weeks before because they're so classy and they're such a great unit together,'' she said.

Being the import in a team can bring with it some lofty expectations, though Harten said she didn't feel the pinch any more than a Ferns or Diamonds player would at franchise level. But she's looking forward to perhaps being less of a one-woman target for opposing teams.

''Sometimes [at the Tactix] you were spearheaded because the other players around you were less experienced,'' she said. ''The Tactix team this year was a very young team and it was a building franchise and kind of on the other scale we've got Magic who have obviously won the competition and have that experience at the whole club of how to win.

"I'm really looking forward to being part of a culture of winning and really trying to test myself out in a team like that.''

Harten notes one of her key strengths is her speed in and out of the circle and that she's ''quite versatile'', with the ability to play both goal shoot and goal attack, while always striving for better shooting consistency.

Under Fitzgerald and new assistant coach Margaret Forsyth, she sees some great mentors with which to lift her game.

''That's so exciting to have an ex-Silver Ferns shooter as one of the coaches, and also Julie Fitzgerald, having grown up in the Australian netball system, it's just going to be such a versatile coaching unit and I really can't wait to play under them.''

Harten, who has a degree in international relations but due to netball hasn't had the opportunity to use it yet, is currently living in Essex, doing a bit of coaching, and will soon move to Bath to take part in a semi-centralised programme with the English squad.

The experience of the ANZ Championship is doing wonders for England's players, who managed a 3-0 series win over Australia this year.

''When the likes of me, Eboni [Beckford-Chambers], Jade [Clarke], Geva [Mentor] come back we can just push the tempo in the England trainings because that level's set for the whole year I suppose, and really teach the other girls in the England team what it's like and give off that impression of professionalism the whole year round, which I think the English Superleague kind of lacks.''

England host South Africa next month, before taking on the Ferns in January, and Harten will arrive for Magic pre-season training after that, flying solo after her parents accompanied her to New Zealand for her first stint here in 2011.

Ironically, her first match for her new team is against the Tactix in Christchurch.

- Fairfax Media

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