Magic familar with trans-Tasman foe's Tactix

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014
Bessie Manu, Jo Trip and Jo Harten
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
NEW BEGINNINGS: Former Tactix players Bessie Manu, Jo Trip and Jo Harten are out to beat their old team when they line up for the Magic tomorrow.

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The Magic won't be short of able lieutenants to point them in the direction of CBS Canterbury Arena tomorrow.

In fact, according to Jo Harten, Bessie Manu normally plonks herself at the front of the bus and is the one ordering the driver where to go anyway, no matter what city they're in.

That duo, along with Jo Trip, are returning to their old stomping ground of Christchurch to take on their former team, the Mainland Tactix, in the first round of this season's trans-Tasman league.

The surroundings will be familiar but this time the crowd will be against them.

Harten, who has played 52 tests for England, turned out for the Tactix the past two years and is a consistent performer at goal shoot, has put a lot of mental energy into the contest.

"I'm definitely a thinker, so for the last week or so I know what they've been doing from past experiences, how they'll approach the game-day," the 24-year-old said.

"For me, it's just having that confidence in my own game that I know I can put out my best performance against my old team. It's quite funny that we play them down there first game, but bring it on and I can't wait to see what happens on Saturday."

It's the opposite approach for Manu and Trip.

"She's the one who makes me nervous thinking about it," Manu said of Harten. "But to be honest, I really like to just focus on myself and how I'm going to approach it, and how our team is feeling."

Trip is looking forward to seeing family and friends down south, but as for facing her former team-mates of the last three seasons, the prospect is neither here nor there.

"I don't really think too much about them as people, just more another team, another colour that we're going to play."

Trip, 23, moved north to be with her partner after finishing tertiary study last year, then was selected to play in the NPC for Hamilton, coached by Magic assistant Margaret Forsyth.

The defender played a bit-part role for the Tactix last season and is likely to be in a similar position at the Magic, with Silver Ferns Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin in front of her.

But those two stars were part of the attraction for all three former Tactix players moving here.

"Who better to learn off than two world-class players," Trip said.

Manu is also an option in the defensive circle, but wing defence is set to be where she slots in.

The 27-year-old debuted for the Tactix in 2008, before three seasons with the Pulse, then returning south in 2012.

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After last season Manu was set to retire and try her hand at sevens, before an out of the blue call from new Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald had her putting her 2016 Olympics dreams on hold. With the encouragement of her parents, who had already heard her retirement speech, Manu was back into it and has learnt a lot from her new coach, particularly from the intense training sessions.

"She doesn't know when to say stop, so we could be doing drills forever, which I like. She always expects so much from us, and I like that, and I enjoy being able to train with the likes of Casey. It definitely lifts your game, because you can see the weakest link, if you're not up there at the same level as everyone else."

Kopua's presence has been looming over Harten at training and that is exactly why she made the switch of teams, having loved her time in Christchurch but also losing a bit of enjoyment for the game.

"I just thought it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially before the Commonwealth Games, trying to up my own game, improve myself," said Harten, who had to recover from ankle reconstruction surgery late last year.

"The other day Casey was over my shot and I was just like 'This is crazy', she's the best defender in the world and I've got her to practice against."

- Waikato Times

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