Waikato-Bay of Plenty produce netball magic
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic made history by fighting back to win the trans-Tasman netball league grand final against the Melbourne Vixens yesterday - the first Kiwi team to ever do so.
Hundreds of Magic fans erupted towards the end of the 9400 seat sell-out match as they cheered on their side to a stunning 41-38 victory. Afterwards they were on their feet, hugging the players and performing a haka to mark the amazing victory.
The look of relief on their faces was clear as Irene van Dyk embraced Casey Williams in a massive hug as the Magic players held their ANZ Championship trophy aloft under the flying red, yellow and black confetti at Hisense Arena.
The Magic pulled out an amazing come-from-behind effort to beat the Vixens and become the first New Zealand team, in the competition's five-year history, to win the title.
Social network site Twitter went crazy as the final whistle blew, with congratulations being offered from sports stars, politicians and fans alike.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker was basking in the glory Tweeting: "We are the champions! Magic are the winners. Phew".
While All Black Piri Weepu remarked on their sporting prowess: "What a game!!! Congrats to the magic!!! What team has lost 4 in a row to comeback an [sic] win a championship!!".
Prime Minister John Key also commented, putting out a statement saying the victory was "especially sweet" for the team who've made the grand final twice before.
“To do this on the Vixens' home court, in a sold-out arena filled with screaming Aussie fans makes the victory even better,” he said.
"I am very proud of them and congratulate them on behalf of all their New Zealand fans."
It has been an incredible journey for the Magic and their fans this season.
The team lost their opening four games of the campaign, as they threw away leads and looked anything but contenders, with little composure under pressure.
But against all odds, they 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.