'I thought I'd stay at Magic till I was 100': van Dyk

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 08:58 22/07/2013
Irene van Dyk
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TEAMMATES: Irene van Dyk and her new captain at the Pulse Katrina Grant goof around at Silver Ferns training.

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Winning another trans-Tasman Netball League title is the first item on Irene van Dyk's agenda, after finally coming home.

In her heart, the 41-year-old will always be Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic player, but she'll see out her career at the Central Pulse.

It's not what the great goal shoot imagined, but once Noeline Taurua stepped down as Magic coach van Dyk wanted out and playing for her hometown franchise was the only option she considered.

"I honestly thought I'd stay with the Magic till I was a hundred, with my little walking frame and everything," van Dyk said after agreeing to terms with the Pulse on Friday.

"But the reality is I live in Wellington and this is where my future is and I will want to work in Wellington once I finish my netball and I'm just thinking of my future and this is really exciting.

"Like I said to [husband] Christie, my heart skips a beat when I think about the Magic. But once I start next season and get into my Pulse gear, that's when it will become a reality.

"The Magic will always be part of my netball legacy and it's definitely my second home."

There had been speculation that van Dyk, Magic captain Laura Langman and their fellow Silver Ferns Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin would shop themselves as a job-lot, once Taurua announced her departure. But van Dyk said that was never the case.

Langman has now signed with the Northern Mystics, van Dyk will be a Pulse player and Kopua and de Bruin will do what works best for them, she said.

"I know it went round that we were going to stick together, but life goes on man. It's a sport for crying out loud."

Van Dyk spent 11 years commuting to the Magic, after originally being recruited to the old Capital Shakers from her native South Africa in 2000. She played her last game for them in 2002 and thought she'd never represent a Wellington franchise again, but now relishes the prospect.

"I'll have a lot of hours free that I'm not in the air and obviously staying at home on a training night is a big bonus and having the opportunity to play with Millie [Lees] and La [Liana Leota] and Donna [Wilkins] meant it was pretty much a no-brainer."

Lees and Leota have been Silver Ferns team-mates in recent times, but you have to go back to 2001 for the last time she and Wilkins shared a shooting circle. Wilkins will turn 36 during next year's campaign, so neither shooter are in their first flush of youth.

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But van Dyk predicts they'll quickly form a crack combination.

"It's going to be brilliant - who wouldn't want to play with Donna? She's such a stalwart of the game and she had sensational seasons last year and the year before, so it's very exciting."

As are the Pulse's playoff chances, once you had defenders Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Joline Henry into the equation.

Van Dyk has helped lead the Magic to every playoff series in this league's history - punctuated by their 2012 title win - and expects similar success in what will probably be a two-year swansong at the Pulse.

"Definitely you always play to win, there's no other way than to win and I'm talking about the whole thing. You want to go all the way."

The only sadness about van Dyk agreeing to terms with the Pulse is that it means the end of the road for Caitlin Thwaites. The Australian has made an outstanding contribution in her three years as an import, as well as being a great asset to the franchise in the community.

But there's no more popular netballer in this country than van Dyk, or a better goal shoot, and securing her services is far and away the finest moment in the Pulse's sometimes chequered history.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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