When a team loses two of the worldâ€™s best players, one could assume that they may struggle for a while. The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have been New Zealandâ€™s best performed ANZ Championship team so far this season, not a bad achievement considering Irene van Dyk (Central Pulse) and Laura Langman (Northern Mystics) headed up a long list of off season departures.
Sunday’s 49-44 win over the Melbourne Vixens at Hisense Arena was a super achievement from the Julie Fitzgerald coached team; they now have four consecutive home games with a bye in Round 7.
â€œTo beat a class team like them in Australia is very, very valuable for us at this stage of the season,â€ said Fitzgerald.
â€œI really was happy about that (intensity) and thatâ€™s something that weâ€™ve really tried to concentrate on, I think they Vixens did that as well.
â€œI think any win over the Vixens at any time of the season is invaluable, they are a class act.â€
In a team with so many new players, it can sometimes take time for new combinations to work effectively but in the first four games it has appeared like the transition from old to new has been seamless. Grace Rasmussen at wing attack and Courtney Tairi at centre is one of those new combinations, but so far their ability to feed the shooters has been extremely impressive.
Fitzgerald spoke with confidence about Tairi being able to take over the centre bib from Langman at the Summer Shootout preseason tournament and so far the 25 year-old New Zealand Silver Fern has filled it seamlessly.
â€œI thought it was by far the best game that Iâ€™ve seen her (Rasmussen) play and particularly in that third quarter, she just seemed to go up another level,â€ said Fitzgerald.
â€œHer (Tairi) ability to feed the circle accurately is invaluable to us; sheâ€™s obviously a very different style to Laura (Langman) or a lot of centres but that styleâ€™s fitting in well with the netball that weâ€™re playing.â€