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Vixens Set To Test Magic's Credentials

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic's play-off credentials will go on the line in Monday's top-of-the-table ANZ Championship netball clash in Tauranga.

Yet to fire on all cylinders, the second-placed Colourplus Magic have the chance to shed the lingering doubts about their consistency with a strong showing against an unbeaten Melbourne Vixens.

With five rounds of the regular season remaining, the jostling for play-off spots is set to intensify with the more accomplished teams expected to make decisive moves in upcoming rounds. For the Magic, it offers the opportunity to emerge from the pretender's category into the real deal.

``We are getting into that important phase of the business end of the season now where the two points on offer each time is huge,'' Magic coach Noeline Taurua said.

``The rest of the programme is a real defining time of where we are going to be placed in this competition..of where we are placed in the top four or the possibility of not being in the top four at all.''

Flush with Silver Ferns talent, the Magic remain an enigma. They will need to be at the top of their game throughout to have any chance against an equally star-studded but more accurate Vixens line-up.

The Vixens have set the benchmark all season. The uncompromising defensive duo of Bianca Chatfield and Julie Corletto, the super finishing skills of shooters Sharelle McMahon and Caitlin Thwaites and a polished midcourt has few chinks.

``They are a very good team with exceptional individuals that are leading the way statistically in all areas of the court,'' Taurua said. ``They are well drilled and very structured. Both in attack and in defence individuals know exactly what they are doing and they go and do things with grit, determination and real commitment.''

The coach said it was important the Magic focused on their own game rather than getting too wound up about the make-up of their opposition.

``There are key areas where certain individuals perform that make them feel in control so we will be looking at those,'' Taurua said.

``But because they are so good as individuals and a team, we've really got to concentrate on ourselves. While we've still got a way to go in terms of consistency, we've also got a lot of strengths.

``Our main concentration has to be on a low error count and that when we have the ball in hand to make the best use of it. I want the high work rate that comes from playing with passion and high intensity.

``They have a hugely talented team so it's more about concentrating on what we can control and that's ourselves. If we can execute well, that will create pressure the other way.''

Taurua has changed her views on home court advantage and is welcoming the showdown at Tauranga's small and intimate QEYC venue.

A disbeliever in the past, Taurua said the Magic's statistics show they perform significantly better at home than away. A far cry from the Vixens home stables at the State Netball Hockey Centre and Hisene Arena in Melbourne, she does not think the less salubrious surrounds in Tauranga will affect the visitors.

``I would like to think for us it does make a positive difference,'' she said.

``It is small but that venue reminds me of the good old days. It is sort of old fashioned and you get the feel of the crowd, like they're right on top of you and you can feel them breathing.

``I enjoy it there, it's a great venue and it will be a good experience for the Vixens.''

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