Hurt Vixens' true test against Wai-BOP Magic
Three wins from three and sitting pretty at the top of the trans-Tasman netball league, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic will today get a true gauge of their form.
For a new-look team, carrying no expectations, the Magic are so far the surprise packet of the competition, but their credentials will surely be given a good examination by the Vixens in Melbourne this afternoon.
The Vixens have looked impressive in dismantling the Northern Mystics and West Coast Fever, before falling at home to the Queensland Firebirds last weekend by one goal, after winning the first three-quarters.
"It will certainly give them an added incentive, but I wouldn't expect much less than a ferocious game from the Vixens, anyway," said Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald, who labelled them a top-four side.
"I can't remember the last time Vixens lost two games at home, so I'm sure they'll be very hungry."
During the Magic's fast start their Silver Fern defensive pairing of Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin, always expected to be their strong point, has shone. But shooters Jo Harten and Ellen Halpenny, along with Grace Rasmussen, Courtney Tairi and Bessie Manu in midcourt - the latter under pressure from Jamie- Lee Price - have come along well. It's a start which has now surely drawn more of a target on the Magic than first expected.
"I don't know about targeted, but I think we've possibly earned a bit more respect than we had earlier in the season," Fitzgerald said.
And who better to help the Magic alter their game for the physicality of the Australians than Fitzgerald - the former Diamonds assistant and longtime coach of New South Wales.
But, she said, winning across the ditch should become more frequent the longer this trans- Tasman league goes on.
"I think the difference is getting smaller all the time."
"It's only a three-hour flight away from New Zealand, it's not a massive trip, and once we start playing it's just the same court and the same dimensions."
- Sunday Star Times