Kia Magic begin their ANZ Championship netball quest in earnest this weekend with two pre-season games against Central Pulse in New Plymouth.
With players arriving from a variety of destinations following international commitments, Waikato/Bay of Plenty coach Julie Fitzgerald is excited by the prospect of having her full squad together for the first time.
England international Jo Harten arrives today while Courtney Tairi lands tomorrow to join captain Casey Kopua, Leana de Bruin and Malia Paseka who have missed much of Magic’s recent build-up due to the Silver Ferns tour to the UK during January.
Kopua is still recovering from off-season ankle surgery and will not play this weekend but will travel with the team. Fitzgerald is confident the inspirational defender will be ready to take the court when Magic open the trans-Tasman season against Tactix on March 1.
``Introducing the Ferns back into the group will help lift the standard,’’ Fitzgerald said.
``The others are certainly progressing well. They’re improving their fitness all the time and their ball skills…… everything is improving all the time but it’s hard to gauge how you’d go against the other teams.
``The plan in New Plymouth is to get everybody out on court as much as we can and really see how they go against some quality opposition.
``Training is all very well but it’s not until you see them on the court against some really good quality that you can fully understand where we are at. I’m far more interested in that than the results.’’
Playing six 15-minute quarters in each outing, the teams will square off on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
Pulse boost a formidable line-up which includes former Magic players Irene van Dyk and Elias Shadrock.
In a novel idea, Harten and Courtney will join fellow out-of-towners Ellen Halpenny and Bessie Manu in residence at the ``Magic House’’ in Hamilton for the duration of the season.
Katherine Coffin, Leana de Bruin (vice-captain), Ellen Halpenny, Jo Harten, Casey Kopua (captain), Brooke Leaver, Bessie Manu, Malia Paseka, Jamie-Lee Price, Grace Rasmussen, Courtney Tairi, Jo Trip, Samantha Sinclair.