Two months ago the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's trans-Tasman netball campaign appeared dead and buried as they sat at the bottom of the ladder, winless after four rounds.
How things can change.
The Magic briefly took the lead in the ANZ Championship, after dispatching the previously top-of-the-table Adelaide Thunderbirds 59-42 in Mt Maunganui on Saturday. The Magic now lie second on the table following the Mystics' 64-55 win over the Tactix last night.
In a superb display at TECT Arena, the Magic blew away the visitors, who had come into the match in excellent form themselves.
It was the eighth win on the trot for the Magic, which equals their competition record for consecutive victories, and has all but assured them of a place in the playoffs – something that was such a long shot not so long ago.
The Magic now even have the chance of hosting a minor semifinal, should they finish third, and remarkably, should results be kind to them, could still yet finish first or second and contest the major semifinal. What won't change for them is their ruthless attitude, which was blatantly evident on Saturday, when they rammed home their dominance.
The hosts didn't lead until inside the last three minutes of the first quarter, but from there they powered on, superior in all areas of the court, and a crushing 18-7 winning of the third period had them run away with the victory.
Coach Noeline Taurua said that hardened approach was great to observe, and she wants it to continue for their last round-robin match against the Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on July 2.
"That's really pleasing for myself to see, and us to feel and experience," she said. "When it comes down to the big games, it's about who can perform under pressure and execute. I think as a team unit we were very proud of that product."
The Magic's defensive end piled the pressure on Thunderbirds shooting weapon Carla Borrego, while the hosts' midcourt was great in getting plenty of ball to Irene van Dyk, who sank a superb 41 from 42.
"I think we're getting a great balance between knowing when to let the ball go and when to just play the easy options or be very clinical," Taurua said.
Her team is thriving on the pressure environment they have been forced into ever since their horror start to the season. Taurua said it took them a while, but that they were now in a great space after becoming less emotionally attached to matches, not worrying about the opposition team or players or the umpires.
"It's a huge turnaround for us," she said. "When we lost those first four games we were forced to actually live the words that we talk about. We valued things more, value regarding our timing together as a team when we train and also when we play the game as well."
A major part of the winning streak has been the fact the Magic have used the same seven players on court consistently, and not used substitutions unless needed because of injury.
"It makes a difference if you are settled because the understanding and the links happen, and people start to know what the other person is going to be doing," Taurua said.
"When you've got stability, it's easy to build on from week to week."
Heading into their final regular season match, Taurua is just looking for the Magic's ball into van Dyk being more accurate and more gains to be picked up defensively.
That would ice an already tasty cake the Magic are whipping up.
Taurua is happy with a lengthy turnaround going into next Monday, with her players able to pull back mentally.
Today Magic physio Fiona Goddard will see Casey Williams to ascertain where she is at, after the Silver Ferns captain suffered an injury to a metatarsal in her left foot when it got stood on in the match.
But there shouldn't be much concern.
"She's all right," Taurua said.
"She came out quite nicely actually out of that game, considering the pain that she was in earlier on."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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