It might be just one round into the trans-Tasman league, but Jamie-Lee Price has already racked up double the amount of court time for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic than she did last year.
In Saturday's superb 70-46 opening win over the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch, the competition's youngest player was introduced at wing defence at halftime in place of Bessie Manu, and put in a very tidy 30-minute display.
The 18-year-old played a significant part in extending the visitors' lead, putting herself in the right spots to harry for the ball and finding those in front of her with some excellent vision. The other noticeable thing about Price was the bullet-like one-armed pass she has on her; the shoulder strength perhaps in the genes from father Steve - the former rugby league legend.
"Yeah, it's pretty good, I've just got to keep working on it," the teenager said of her ability to unleash a flying missile.
Price, who was co-captain of the New Zealand team which won the trans-Tasman secondary school tournament last year, was formerly a defender, but at just 1.79 metres, looks more at home up the court a bit.
This year she is enjoying the fact that she can concentrate solely on netball and not have to worry about balancing schoolwork and travel - having completed Year 13 at Mt Albert Grammar School last year and now moving to Cambridge.
You get the sense that last season was a frustrating one for her, with so much to take in, between NCEA credits and a social life, and former coach Noeline Taurua only using her for one quarter - against the NSW Swifts at Mt Maunganui in round two when the match was well in the bag.
"I was just happy to get more [court time] than last year because now I'm just going to progress and keep training hard and work on things that I need to improve in my game and hopefully get more [game time]," Price said of her efforts from round one.
New coach Julie Fitzgerald knows the Sydney-born teenager is going to develop into a brilliant player, and has installed plenty of confidence in her early, though the move to play her wasn't premeditated.
Price wasn't given any indication prior to the game that she'd be getting on court, having found out the lineup on the Tuesday.
"So it was kind of a surprise at halftime that I was going on," she said.
But from there, Price grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.
"It was good. I was just happy to get on court and put what we've been doing in training into the game.
"I think at the start I was a bit nervous and a bit slow, but once I got a few balls I got confidence. And I think as the game wore on I got a bit harder on my player, and my driving down the court was a bit better than the first quarter [I played]."
Price admitted she found the game-speed fast and was a bit tired in the last quarter of the match, but now she's looking to up her intensity to be even more menacing.
"I've just got to keep the pressure on my player, as in more man-on and restricting them from the top of the circle," she said.
The Magic now look ahead to facing the Northern Mystics in Auckland on Monday night - a match which will see former Magic star Laura Langman up against her old side.
While the two teams couldn't have had more differing lead-in form - the Mystics were awful in their 58-34 loss to the Vixens in Melbourne on Sunday - Price was quick to point out the new-look Magic were grounded.
"We're really happy with how we played our first game, but we know we've still got to improve on a lot of things."
Fitzgerald now has a nice conundrum on her hands with the WD bib, and will be delighted if the rest of her young players can give her more headaches like this.
- Fairfax Media
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