What an incredible ride. In an amazing turnaround, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic went from under-performingto winning their maiden ANZ Championship title.
This was my first full season of covering netball and I was treated to a rollercoaster of ups and downs from a side which is always considered championship title contenders, such is the class in their squad.
With the experienced Silver Ferns quartet of Laura Langman, Irene van Dyk, Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin, no one could bet against the Magic at the start of a season, but they had become accustomed to losing when it really mattered.
So it was amazing to watch their massive character shine through under pressure.
And that wasn't just in the grand final.
Right from round five when they knew that another loss would end their campaign, the Magic hung tough and kept producing the goods.
When coach Noeline Taurua eventually settled on a lineup, she stuck with them and I liked how she let the combinations develop and made minimal changes.
Julianna Naoupu, Khao Watts and Elias Shadrock ended up being key parts of the Magic unit.
Taurua's quality and determination, both this year and previously, has got players to a point where they were extremely loyal to her and wanted to do well for her.
By the time the playoffs came around the Magic were on such a massive roll that you felt it would take something big to stop them.
Sitting courtside at the minor semifinal in Hamilton against the Adelaide Thunderbirds and at the preliminary final in Auckland against the Northern Mystics, I had to prepare to write the season obituary as the clock counted down the final minutes.
But both times the Magic dug deep and their huge self-belief surfaced.
Travelling to Melbourne - the sporting capital of the world - for the decider made the occasion extra special, though you wouldn't have known the game was on in the AFL-mad city.
However, as I sat and wrote quarter by quarter updates for the web, I realised that maybe this Magic fairytale was too good a story to be true, as they trailed a good Vixens team.
However, the Magic stayed mentally strong and forced pressure on their opponents to gather in ball at crucial times, which allowed them to hit the lead late in the piece.
The Magic fans, behind the goal to my left, erupted with delight and came into their own in those last few minutes.
They had been splendid throughout against a huge Vixens contingent and then the "De-fence" and "Ma-gic" chants rang louder.
From there the Magic hung tough.
The scenes at the end of the game were very special. There were shrieks of delight, massive hugs all round and tears down beaming faces.
Captain Langman hoisted the trophy up and the team were bathed in red, yellow and black confetti, before they embraced the fans, who performed hakas in the grandstand.
At the press conference soon after, the entire Magic team filed in and sat up the front, showing their unity that was so crucial in their success.
Then later that night passersby on Melbourne's city precinct could hear the absolutely loud cheers booming from the restaurant where the after-party took place.
The Magic had every right to celebrate.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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