MG Mystics Fall Just Short After Stirring Comeback

13.03.2022 Mystics Sulu Fitzpatrick in action during the ANZ Premiership netball match between the Magic and Mystics played at Globox Arena in Hamilton. Photo Credit ©Michael Bradley.

Delivering a decisive start and finish, Splice Construction Magic heralded the start of the season in perfect fashion with an impressive 46-43 win over defending champions MG Mystics in Hamilton on Sunday.

Magic led from start to finish after a stunning opening handed them an eight-goal advantage but along the way they were forced to dig deep as the Mystics staged several productive comebacks. Closing to within one down the home straight, the Mystics could not break the Magic’s tenacious resolve.

The result broke a 14-game losing streak for the Magic but with most teams affected by Covid-19 and missing key players, likely to be a common scenario in the opening weeks, the Magic and Mystics lined up with new faces in combating the challenging times.
These included Simmon Wilbore at wing attack for the home side and temporary Robinhood Stars ring-in Greer Sinclair, at wing defence for the MG Mystics.

Bailey Mes (goal attack) and Claire Kersten (centre) got their first starts for the Magic after transferring in the off-season while goal defence Michaela Sokolich-Beatson made her much-anticipated return to the Mystics after spending two seasons on the sidelines with injury.

Personnel changes and work-load requirements were a feature of the game, the Magic being the first to settle into game-mode in impressive fashion. Mes was an influential figure in helping deliver a cracking start for the home side, accurate and steady as a rock under the hoop while newcomers Ivana Rowland (goal shoot) and Wilbore grabbed their opportunities in decisive fashion.

Kersten and Sam Winders were constant workhorses in the midcourt while new recruit Oceane Maihi and Erena Mikaere got their hands on plenty of defensive turnover ball as the Magic rolled into the first quarter break with a handsome 17-9 lead.

Without shooting sensation Grace Newke for the match, the Mystics received a welcome boost with the injection of midcourt maestro Elisapeta Toeava on the resumption. Trailing by 12 at one stage, the visitors gradually found their rhythm, the influence of Toeava helping the defending champions chip into the deficit through a combination of patience and improved ball movement.

For the Magic, shooter Brooke Leaver made her first ANZ Premiership appearance since 2019 as she and Rowland remained intact for the rest of the match with Mes being on limited minutes.

New recruit, shooter Monica Falkner did her bit with a perfect 11 from 11 shots for the half as the Mystics put the Magic on notice when reducing their lead to 26-23 at the main break.

Winders and Kersten swapped positions for the second half while Georgia Tong was introduced at goal defence for the Magic as a tightly contested third quarter unfolded.

Sticking with their combinations of the second stanza, which included Toeava, Sokolich-Beatson playing at wing defence, and 2021 New Zealand Secondary School Player of the Year Carys Stythe at goal defence, the Mystics threw everything at their opponents in a quarter which ebbed and flowed both ways.

Missing many of their big-name players, the Mystics closed to within one halfway through but could not crack a resilient Magic. With turnovers creeping in both ways, it was the home team who finished the strongest, the maturity of Rowland and Wilbore helping the home side forge a 37-33 lead at the last turn.