Van Dyk gets better the older she gets

GOAL THREAT: Sydney Swifts say they want to limit the chances Magic's shooting ace Irene Van Dyk receives.
GOAL THREAT: Sydney Swifts say they want to limit the chances Magic's shooting ace Irene Van Dyk receives.

Not surprisingly, Irene van Dyk does not keep a running tally of the number of goals she sinks on the netball court.

Her numbers would have her reaching for the Nurofen anyway so it's probably a wise move.

The world class Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic goal shoot has now surpassed 2000 goals in the ANZ Championship, and although she turns 40 in a couple of months, van Dyk is still determined to shoot more.

In last Monday's first round match against the Southern Steel, van Dyk netted a perfect 30 from 30 and could only watch as her team found a way to lose a game which they had taken control of.

But during the first quarter of that match, she clocked up a special milestone of 2000 goals, being the second player in the competition to achieve the feat, after Queensland Firebirds Jamaican Romelda Aiken did so in last year's grand final.

Van Dyk now has 2023 goals from 2174 attempts at a brilliant 93 per cent, and 23-year-old Aiken has 2043 at 85 per cent.

Not that records are at the forefront of van Dyk's mind.

"Yeah I had no idea, and I didn't even know until yesterday [Wednesday] when I watched the game again and I heard they said something like that, and I was like: oh my gosh, that's a lot of goals," she says.

"To be quite honest, I don't count my goals," van Dyk laughed.

So what can be next for the lady who has achieved everything in the sport, with 202 international caps under her belt – 130 for New Zealand and 72 for South Africa – 3000 goals maybe?

"It is just to play to the best of my ability every time I hit the court because I know it is not going to last forever," van Dyk says.

Although she says her age comes up in every conversation she has with people these days, van Dyk doesn't feel old and doesn't have a clue when she'll give the game up.

"I can't say four years down the track, I take every game as it is, and I'm loving it at the moment.

"I just love playing, I love being out there, I love getting tested, I love getting pushed outside my comfort zone every time we play."

For some, that would be a hard concept to grab, that being pushed out of your comfort zone is something to enjoy.

But the exuberant van Dyk sums up vividly what it feels like to do what she does.

"Honestly, when your heart bounces, and it feels like it wants to pop out, you kind of feel physically sick, but you're not, all those kind of feelings, and you know the pressure's on, it's definitely a high that just comes with sport."

Van Dyk, along with Casey Williams and Laura Langman, has played in all 63 matches for the franchise, and is becoming smarter about her training.

"You obviously want to be ready for every game that you come up against. In saying that, training is still flipping hard though," she says.

"Recovery wise it takes a little bit longer, and when we have free time, we have two weeks off, I can't have the whole two weeks off, I'll kind of cut it short by a week. Just because with the older your body gets the harder it gets to get back into peak performance.

"I still do my workouts and it's just so much easier for me to maintain than be a couch potato and do the whole shebang right from the start again."

So having been over and over her game so many times in the past, making adjustments here and there to keep her ahead of the pack, how does van Dyk maintain her high standards and keep improving?

"It is basically analysing the defence as well and seeing what they're likely to do against you," she says. "And then obviously feeling comfortable with your goal attack and your wing attack and your centre feeding you, because ultimately they are the ones that make me look like a superstar, because I'm not really a superstar, they are the ones that make me look like a superstar. I've just been very lucky with the feeders that I've had up till now, they just make life so much easier for me."

Van Dyk says she and her team-mates got "a shake in the boots" in their first up loss so are wanting to put that right tomorrow against the Northern Mystics in Hamilton.

"It's not getting any easier, to be quite honest," she says. "And we definitely have to pull up our socks and make sure that we spark on Sunday.

"After coming out of a game like that, everyone analyses themselves. And I think everyone is their worst critic, because you know if you've let the team down, and everybody looks at themselves and goes: flip, that was not good enough, I need to step up."

Van Dyk says the team were looking to push one another that little bit extra to get the best out of them, in a game she said everyone was fired up for and which had the hairs on the back of their necks standing up.

"It is going to be a formidable game, it is going to be an absolute smashing game," she declared. "They will throw everything at us and we are going to throw everything at them. It is going to be whoever can last with the pressure for 60 minutes. They are not going to hand it to us and we are definitely not going to hand it to them."

Waikato Times