Magic break grand final hoodoo in thriller
There wasn't much sleep had by the Magic netballers in the sporting capital of the world last night.
This morning they fly back to New Zealand with throbbing heads, bleary eyes and an ANZ Championship trophy - something that looked impossible for them to secure not too long ago.
After completing an unbelievable fairytale ending to their trans-Tasman netball league season by beating the Melbourne Vixens 41-38 at Hisense Arena yesterday, the Magic had every right to celebrate into the night after they became the first New Zealand side to win the competition, which is in its fifth year.
After being the only team to make the playoffs each year of the competition, but never having the ability to go on and win the games that really matter, the Magic turned that round in a big way this year.
Their season began horribly with four losses on the trot but they amazingly came from last place, finishing the season with 12 successive wins and coming from behind to win all three of their playoff games.
Capping it off was yesterday's effort, where they were down by six goals in the third quarter but stormed back to take the contest, as they hit the front with 5 minutes remaining, and managed to hold their nerve, with Irene van Dyk, who was ever accurate with 25 from 26, nailing the late shots to complete the job.
Their season is undoubtedly one of sport's most remarkable comebacks of recent time.
Coach Noeline Taurua, who had previously come in for flak for not being able to guide her star-laden outfit to a title, always believed, despite their horror opening to the season, that her side could go all the way.
"I knew it was going to be hard and I thought out of our lot that we could actually get to No 1," she said.
"It's fantastic. Obviously this is the last bit on the paper that we wanted to achieve this season."
Taurua, who was on her feet for most of the final quarter, said her side's composure and "executing under pressure" was what got it through in the end.
"When we went into the fourth quarter I think we switched to be honest. I thought we let the result go and decided that we were going to go out there and play a bit of netball," she said.
Magic goal keep Leana de Bruin was named player of the grand final for a sterling effort in which she picked up seven rebounds, three intercepts and three deflections, while Magic captain Laura Langman was voted joint MVP of the competition, along with the Northern Mystics' Temepara George.
"Obviously very humbling but (I) certainly couldn't do it without my counterparts so really I think it goes to my team, we were MVP of the year," Langman said.
Having been to two previous grand finals with Casey Williams and van Dyk, Langman finally had the chance to lift the trophy this time.
"It's lighter than I anticipated," she said of the silverware, adding that she was very proud of what her side had achieved.
"It's been an incredible journey with ups and downs and to lift the trophy and celebrate with this lot is up there in my books, top notch."
The Magic have shown incredible spirit and self-belief this season, being made to work so hard for their rewards, and ultimately that aided them for when the biggest occasion arrived.
Langman said when they were behind by six goals, Taurua was able to hit home a direct message which managed to get them back on track.
"I think the pressure at both defence ends was massive and it was just a matter of being patient and ensuring that you did your job, we needed to ensure we cut them off,” Langman said.
"We managed to just chip away like we did and then once we get that momentum we're on fire."