Magic defender Casey Williams has admitted she is not 100 per cent right after ankle surgery last year.
The Silver Ferns captain has had a slow start to this year's ANZ Championship, which has coincided with her team's sluggish work out of the blocks, and she believes there's only one way for her to go in the coming weeks.
The concerns for Williams are general ones rather than specific problems with the ankle, but they have definitely been holding the usually sprightly defender back.
To date, Williams is fifth in the competition's rebound count and 12th for intercepts, with her finishing position at the conclusion of last year fourth and second respectively.
"To be honest there's still some lingering things," Williams said. "I wouldn't say I'm 100 per cent performance wise.
"I think what I realised, when I wasn't training properly and having the impact on my body, [was] how much it takes to get back into that routine again.
"When I wasn't training or doing the netball stuff, I felt like I was 26. My body felt really good; you feel young and every morning you didn't get out of bed limping and that sort of stuff. So [I was] just getting my body back used to that intensity and being able to back it up day after day."
Williams said she's doing everything possible in her preparation to make sure she can be the best player she can be, and she and Magic fans alike will be hoping for a steady improvement heading into tomorrow's match against the West Coast Fever in Tauranga.
"Yeah, well I think I can only go forward," Williams said. "It's a bit like a 50-cent mixture [lolly] bag at the moment, what you get from me, and I want to make that more consistent. And I want to know that my team-mates know that if they throw that ball or if I'm going for something, that I'm going to get it. I want them to have that trust and belief in me as well, as I do in them."
The injury has been Williams' first major one and it has been a learning curve for her.
"Mentally it's been quite challenging for me. And I guess you've got to go through those. I think it's making me a better person and a better player as well, having been through that. Life's not all about ups, there is downs in your life too, as well as on the court."
Williams has been used at both goal defence and goal keep during the season, but that lack of confidence has made it tougher for her when moving up the court.
"Before I had surgery I felt like a really good goal defence," she said. "And now I feel like I'm a bit behind the times to be honest. But I'm trying not to see myself as a victim and dig that hole and put myself in it and put the dirt on."
While Williams enjoys being partnered up in the defensive circle again with national team-mate Leana de Bruin, with the duo honest in telling each other where they should be, Williams admitted it wasn't always an easy combination to form.
"I think it has its moments, to be honest. She's easy to work with but I think sometimes we see the same ball and we end up going for the same stuff. But I think with the structure that we have, we just need to stick to it. And we will get ball with the plan that we do have."
Williams said the fact the Magic's nine-goal win over the Canterbury Tactix last Monday was by more than a couple of goals made it confidence-boosting, but they realised they needed to win more ball as a whole team and use their possession more effectively.
The Fever have never beaten the Magic in the four times they have met, and the Perth-based side have had a mixed start to this campaign.
Goal shoot Caitlin Bassett has scored the most goals in the competition so far, though captain Catherine Cox is only shooting at 58 per cent at goal attack.
"That sounds good to me. I'd hope to keep Cox's shooting percentage down," Williams said when informed of Cox's stats. "But I always look forward to a challenge of playing against Cath; she's skilful, she's fast and she's a really good challenge. And it's another way to measure where we're at as a defence unit as well, against those sort of attackers."
AT A GLANCE
ANZ Championship, Round 6 Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic v West Coast Fever 7.20 tomorrow, TECT Arena, Tauranga TAB odds: Magic $1.37, Fever $2.85
- Waikato Times