Waikato-BOP Magic hard at work for repeat
It's just what the other trans-Tasman league teams didn't want to hear.
Noeline Taurua, coach of defending champions the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, believes her side are better placed at this stage of the pre-season than they have been in previous years.
If, after this year's monumental championship-winning effort, the Magic weren't already considered the team to beat for 2013, Taurua has pumped up their tyres by being "delighted" about where they are at in their preparation, knowing that there is still plenty to be improved.
"We definitely want to start better than we did last year," she said.
"I think every year you learn new things, and there's always a willingness to see how you can be better the year after."
The Magic started pre-season training in November - a couple of weeks earlier than previously so they can put more work into building a fitness base and getting their systems up and running prior to the New Year.
All of the Silver Ferns players are on a compulsory break and don't come back until January 7, with that group doing their own fitness work.
Australian import Khao Watts comes back to the country on January 4 and new recruits Jamie-Lee Price and Nadia Loveday have been managed amid their school commitments, having completed year 12 and 13 respectively at Mt Albert Grammar School.
The squad, which has also undertaken mental skills sessions, have this month had two fitness sessions a week and five-hour skill sessions on Saturdays.
"The girls are working really hard as individuals and we are quite clear about the targets that we're going to be setting for ourselves and being able to live up to the standards next year," Taurua said.
"When I reflect on where we are at this particular moment in comparison to previous years, we're way ahead of ourselves, so I'm really happy."
The Magic's first game of the season is on March 24 against the Canterbury Tactix in Nelson.
Last season Mt Maunganui hosted a pre-season tournament for all 10 teams but that concept has been scrapped, with teams to organise their own plans this time.
Taurua was disappointed they wouldn't get to view all the teams under one roof, and said that left a gap in their preparation in terms of practising against the Australian style of play.
Because of that the Magic are looking to play the Australian Institute of Sport team, in possibly more than one game on February 24 in New Plymouth - the day after the Magic face the Central Pulse at the same venue.
Prior to that the Magic will play the Northern Mystics in Auckland on February 20, and are set to round out their preparation with a yet to be confirmed match on the weekend of March 2-3.
There are going to be invitational pre-season tournaments in Queenstown and Sydney, though the former one is the weekend the Magic are in New Plymouth, with Taurua still unsure of when the Sydney one was.
The pre-season fixtures are relatively early compared to when the competition starts, but Taurua said they have structured their programme to give themselves six weeks prior to playing any games, then another two-week block to "make sure we're on the right path" before the championship proper.