Result of Mystics-Swifts clash may be crucial
After Sunday night's result the Mystics definitely don't owe the Magic any favours, but the Waikato-Bay of Plenty outfit could be left relying on the Aucklanders to help get them to the trans-Tasman netball league playoffs.
The final-round match between the Mystics and the New South Wales Swifts, in Auckland, is shaping up as an important contest to decide the make-up of the top four sides.
Assuming the Swifts account for the lowly Southern Steel, and lose to the Mystics, it would mean the Magic probably need to win just one of their remaining two contests to make the finals.
But if the Sydney-siders were to get up, it would mean the Magic need to be victorious in their last two matches.
The top three sides are tied on 16 points, but each of them look likely to progress to at least 18 by the end of the regular season, with fixtures against sides in the bottom four.
The Magic – the only team to have made the playoffs each year – have the toughest-looking run-in, but both of their games are at home against Australian sides who will have to counter the travel factor.
They play the last match of the regular season on Monday, July 2, against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton, after taking on the Adelaide Thunderbirds this Saturday afternoon in Mt Maunganui.
The Thunderbirds thrashed the Swifts 62-35 last weekend and Magic coach Noeline Taurua noted their dominance throughout the court.
"You're going to get the same things pretty much, they don't change very often from week to week," Taurua said of this weekend's opponents. "Defensively their gains are very high, and attacking end they've got the likes of [Carla] Borrego and the other one [Erin Bell] down there."
After an epic contest against the Mystics, the Magic will need to bring the same intensity to their remaining matches. Taurua said her side would take "a huge amount of confidence" out of their win, after being able to perform well in a match she likened to an international.
"The intensity out there, the pressure, being able to execute the game plan or execute the ball, it definitely was similar to a test match," she said.
"I thought one of the good things as well was that we showed our mental toughness and our hardness out there."
That was something that was missing when the Magic slumped to their four losses to open the season.
"We appreciate and value the time that we're out on court," Taurua said of the turnaround. "And there's a lot of things that we're doing better than we have the previous week. So our philosophy's still the same, it's being better and finding ways to do that."
So the Magic have no time to rest on their laurels despite their seven wins in a row.
"I think we've got a lot to improve on," Taurua said. "We've got the structure there but it's the final execution. There were times when I thought that we should have let the ball go but we held on to it, and that's definitely one of the areas that we need to be able to look above the mess and play our game. I thought there was still gains, intercepts, that we could have possibly attacked, but we never attacked the line of the ball. So there's always things to improve on but we are chipping away at them week to week."
The Magic included young midcourter Ngawai Eyles on their bench against the Mystics. She is just a temporary replacement at this stage, with shooter Arahi Wall still available but being managed through personal circumstances.
Taurua said they went for midcourt cover because Khao Watts and Jess Tuki were having injuries managed during the campaign.
THE RUN HOME
Adelaide Thunderbirds vs Magic (away), vs Tactix (home)
Melbourne Vixens vs Pulse (away), vs Steel (away)
Northern Mystics vs Tactix (away), vs Swifts (home)
Waikato-BoP Magic vs Thunderbirds (home), vs Firebirds (home)
NSW Swifts vs Steel (home), Mystics (away)
Queensland Firebirds vs Fever (home), Magic (away)