"Congratulations on signing on to the winning team of the inaugural ANZ Championship."
Those were the words the 12 Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic players heard last night from confident chief executive Martin Ellis. The franchise named its official squad last night and as expected, it is littered with experience, including more than 250 international caps.
Irene van Dyk, Casey Williams, Laura Langman and Joline Henry return for the Magic and are joined by 20-year-old shooting Fern Maria Tutaia. Amigene Metcalfe also returns.
Six Silver Ferns, experienced domestic players and exciting younger talent make up the squad for the transtasman competition which starts in April and Ellis believes the team can live up to its reputation as best team on paper and take the first title.
"As far as I'm concerned the girls are doing everything required of them to work towards the July final. You don't enter competitions like this without the belief you can win and I think we can," he said.
The culture of the team and the experience and ability of coach Noeline Taurua contributed to retaining the core of strong players and attracting the likes of Tutaia and former Flame Jodi Tod, Ellis said.
While other New Zealand teams, especially the Wellington based Central Pulse, have struggled to attract international players, the Magic had no trouble, but the challenge now is performing in the competition's first year while proudly wearing one of the favourite tags.
The make-up of the squad is four shooters, four mid-courters and four defenders, but with Tutaia able to cover both shooting positions, the fourth shooter is likely to see a lot of bench time.
The Magic play seven home games this season; four at Hamilton's Mystery Creek and three in Rotorua. Their first game is against the other team wearing the favourites tag, the Adelaide Firebirds, in Rotorua on April 7.
Magic squad: Rachel Beale, Nicola Cooney, Keshia Grant, Joline Henry, Laura Langman, Halana Leith, Amigene Metcalfe, Brigette Tapene, Jodi Tod, Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk, Casey Williams.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Can the Chiefs make it three in a row in 2014?Related story: (See story)