Waikato-BOP Magic midcourter Ariana Cable-Dixon rising to the challenge of the ANZ Premiership
Ariana Cable-DIxon's rapid rise is set to continue on Sunday, when the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic play the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch.
After going unwanted when contracts were handed out last August, the 23-year-old from Te Awamutu joined the Magic as a training partner, and was then brought into their playing ranks as a replacement for teenager Sydney Fraser, who is recovering from an achilles injury.
The midcourter had had a taste of the Magic environment before, sitting on the bench on several occasions last season, and when she made her debut in the opening round of the ANZ Premiership last month, she instantly impressed, prompting pundits to wonder how she hadn't been signed up in the first place.
Cable-Dixon said she was disappointed not to attract any interest last year, after an impressive season for the Waikato-BOP team in the second-tier Beko league, and that she would have been willing to move had another franchise come knocking.
"I was kind of hoping something would come up around home, because I am quite a local girl and my family's around here, so I'd prefer to play here and still be around them, but if anything had come up, any opportunity to play ANZ, you've got to take it."
As it turns out, her hometown team ended up needing her, and if her performances so far are anything to go by, a full-time contract - whether with the Magic, or someone else - should be hers for 2018.
She started at centre for the Magic in their first four matches, but came off the bench last Sunday against the Northern Mystics, after the reshuffled starting lineup had gone down by 11 midway through the second quarter.
Cable-Dixon said she didn't mind the change of role, and that she feels she's been going pretty good so far.
"I wasn't starting in preseason, but obviously Marg [Forsyth, the Magic coach] saw that it was working well, and she gave me the start and from there it's been alright.
"It's a huge step up, but I feel with the players around me at the moment, they're so helpful, they've made the transition from Beko to ANZ so much easier."
With the Magic, Cable-Dixon has usually found herself on court with Grace Rasmussen at wing attack, Monica Falkner at goal attack and Lenize Potgieter at goal shoot, and while Rasmussen is an experienced SIlver Fern, and Potgieter a South African international, the foursome are relatively raw as a combination, which has had its ups and downs.
"Obviously when people have been working together for a while, that's a lot easier, but because we're so new to everything, and open, maybe that worked out better for us as well.
"At the start, with Lenny, I just couldn't find her space, whatsoever, and I didn't know what she wanted and what she liked, but each game it's grown, and I feel like we have a really good combination together.
"With three new people, I feel like Grace really tries to take her leadership to another level as well, by helping us all out."
The Magic head into Sunday's game sitting third on the premiership ladder, having lost two matches in a row, to the Southern Steel (by 13) and the Mystics (by 5), but in the Tactix - who conceded 90 goals on Wednesday against the Steel - they have the perfect opposition to help them bounce back.
Cable-Dixon said the resilience the Magic showed in fighting back in the Mystics loss was promising, even if they couldn't quite get the job done.
"It was just silly little errors that we were making. In the last quarter we only had one turnover, compared to how many in the second quarter.
"Coming off the bench, I may have helped lift the speed, or we may have just said 'what are we doing, we're 11 down', and it was really gutting to not get there in the end, but we can't really afford to try and come back after being down by so much.
"I think that was a good experience for us as well - being down then coming back. In the Steel game, once we were down, we stayed down, but now we know we can fight back, we just can't afford to get that far down."
On paper, it is hard to see anything other than a Magic win on Sunday, given the woeful state of the Tactix, but they definitely won't be taking their opponents lightly.
"They have nothing to lose, and they play like they have nothing to lose," said Cable-Dixon.
"You don't want to be the team that has a bad game against them, because once they gel, they'll be as hard as any other team to beat.
"You can't take anyone lightly, especially after their big loss on Wednesday night, they won't want to do that again, so they'll go away, and we just have to realise they're not going to be as easy as the Steel found them."
First centre pass for Sunday's game is just after 2pm.