Why things are looking up for Irene van Dyk

Last updated 05:00 11/05/2012
Irene van Dyk
ROBYN EDIE/The Southland Times
LOOKING UP: Netball legend Irene van Dyk turns 40 next month and definitely isn't afraid to talk about it.
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Is Irene van Dyk the world's greatest netball player of her generation?

Yes, she's without peer as a shooter and has had an enormous influence on the sport.

No, she's been brilliant and her longevity remarkable but hasn't been the greatest.

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They reckon it's impolite to ask a woman about her age.

But chances are the people who think that haven't met Irene van Dyk. The great goal shoot turns 40 next month and definitely isn't afraid to talk about it.

"It's going to be awesome. I can't wait actually," van Dyk said of the impending milestone.

"I think for a lot of people; they think it's all over when they reach a certain age. With me, I'm just going against all the odds.

"So, no, it's great. I can't wait."

By their own high standards, this hasn't been a great trans-Tasman netball league for van Dyk's Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic side. They've recorded just two wins, both in the last fortnight, and sit sixth on the table.

But the quality of van Dyk's work has been as good as ever, which was remarked upon by Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu earlier this week. Across the 10 teams, only the Northern Mystics' Cathrine Latu has a better shooting success rate than van Dyk's 93.3 per cent.

"I'm getting there. It doesn't get any easier and all the defenders make my life so flipping hard it's not funny," she said.

It's 18 years since van Dyk played the first of her 202 test matches, the first 72 of which were for her native South Africa. Latu looms as van Dyk's ultimate successor in the Silver Ferns, but right now the 39-year-old remains very much in Taumaunu's plans.

Like rugby, netball works in cycles now and Taumaunu's thinking is geared towards making sure her team can defend their title at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and then take the world championship crown from Australia the following year.

Just 25 years old, Latu looks to have both events well within her grasp. But at van Dyk's age you can't take anything for granted.

"I'm very realistic and I know that they're looking at the next three to four years for the Comm Games and world champs, so if the selectors think I've got something to offer and I'm still good enough to be there then I'm going to go `hallelujah'. If not, I've had the most amazing run in the world," van Dyk said.

"I'm absolutely stoked [to still be a New Zealand-contracted player] and I wouldn't let them down for all the money in the world. That's why you train, because you want to be out there for your country and it's very exciting to know that I'm still in the running for the next three to four years." Although, come the 2015 world champs in Sydney, van Dyk will be 43.

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"The number [of years old] is irrelevant. As long as you're performing and you're consistent, then they have no reason not to select you."

HAVING already fashioned the most remarkable career in international netball history, nothing seems beyond van Dyk. Except a prediction that the Magic will beat the Central Pulse, when the two teams meet at Te Rauparaha Arena on Monday night.

After a slow start to their campaign, the Magic look in useful form and last Sunday's thrashing of the West Coast Fever saw them rocket up the table.

The Pulse, meanwhile, are ninth, following their 39-36 loss to the New South Wales Swifts.

"We're not counting our chicks," van Dyk said.

"They lost their last game and they will be hurting and ready to come out firing. I think they've been absolutely fantastic so far and there's a lot of talent in the team, and their defence looks absolutely formidable.

"Caity [Thwaites] has been playing fantastic netball in the shooting circle as well, and that counts for a lot."

- The Dominion Post

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