Irene van Dyk's rollercoaster ride ends in glory

AARON GOILE IN MELBOURNE
Last updated 20:43 22/07/2012
Irene van Dyk
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IRENE VAN DYK: "It (victory) wasn't only for us here, it was for the whole of New Zealand."

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Irene van Dyk has faced an incredible week of emotions in Melbourne the star shooter couldn't have had a wider smile.

The 40-year-old, reeling from the death of her mother earlier in the week, embraced Casey Williams in a massive hug while the Magic players held their trans-Tasman netball league trophy aloft under the flying red, yellow and black confetti at Hisense Arena.

The Magic pulled out another amazing come-from-behind effort to beat the Melbourne Vixens 41-38 to become the first New Zealand team to win the title in the fifth year of the competition.

After van Dyk flies back to New Zealand, she makes a trip across to South Africa to be at her mother's funeral.

But after yesterday's pulsating comeback, she let out shrieks of excitement as she described the feeling of holding the trophy.

"Pretty amazing," van Dyk said of that. "Just glad that it happened to this bunch of girls because we've had our backs against the wall the whole time and we just stood up week in and week out."

Van Dyk said fighting so hard on the court took her separate emotion out of the contest and it wasn't until afterwards that she felt it again.

And she said winning the title wasn't just for the Magic.

"It wasn't only for us here, it was for the whole of New Zealand. We had such a lot of best wishes from all over New Zealand so it was a pretty big game if you look at it that way."

Of the comeback she said they just had the belief to keep chipping away at the Vixens' lead.

"Regardless of what is happening and regardless of how many goals they were up, we just clawed it back one by one.

"It was just a crazy game. We were never in control. And probably the last 30 seconds we felt like we were in control. We had to scramble.

"It wasn't a pretty game, it was a real scrappy game. I was like 'Holy, have we honestly played nine weeks for this?' But ultimately we hung in there and we played the whole 60 which was quite nice."

Sinking the goals at the end to seal the deal, the star shooter said she was just wanting to score to make the pressure turnovers count.

A large contingent of Magic fans made up the 9400 sellout crowd and they became very noisy towards the end when they urged their side to the title, and afterwards they were on their feet, hugging the players and performing a haka to mark the amazing victory.

"Honestly when they yelled 'Defence' I was like 'Ahhh, I want to play defence'," van Dyk said.

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"They were just sensational and they were so loud and not even the Vixens crowd had anything to combat that, that was pretty phenomenal, it felt like playing at home to be quite honest."

It has been an incredible journey for the Magic and their fans this season.

The four losses was a dismal opening to the team's campaign, as they threw away leads and looked anything but contenders, with little composure under pressure.

But against all odds, the Magic came from last place on the ladder to put together a remarkable run to the playoffs, winning nine in a row.

Then came two exhilarating finals matches, the first which they came back to win in the dying seconds and the second which they snatched from the jaws of defeat by fighting back and forcing it to extra time and then powering home.

And the grand final, well, they just did what they had been doing, and their massive self belief got them through yet again.

Before this season, many had questioned Magic coach Noeline Taurua's ability to get her side a title, with her star-laden team being the only one in the competition to reach the playoffs each year, but failing to take out the clutch games.

But Taurua can be commended for being a huge influence in this side's remarkable year.

- Fairfax Media

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