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Magic rediscover trans-Tasman form

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/07/2016 Cathy Walshe

Around eight weeks ago, Magic skipper Leana de Bruin says, the signs weren't looking good for the 2012 trans-Tasman netball league champions.

Her injury-hit team were winless through the first seven rounds, mired at the bottom of the New Zealand conference and struggling for form and confidence.

"I must confess, about a month or two ago, I thought this would be the worst season ever," she told NZ Newswire.

Given that the Magic are the only team to reach the play-offs every season since 2008, that was a worry.

But fast-forward to play-offs weekend and the Magic have rediscovered their mojo, finished second on the ladder behind the undefeated Southern Steel, and will face third-placed Northern Mystics in Sunday's elimination final.

While de Bruin's return from niggling foot and ankle injuries has been key in the Magic's resurgence, the 138-Test Silver Ferns defender prefers to point to the role played by the team's younger players.

Kristiana Manu'a has grown in confidence since stepping in for Casey Kopua at goal keep, while Jamie-Lee Price has developed into a tenacious and disruptive wing defence.

And in the midcourt, Courtney Tairi impressed at centre in last week's 62-54 last-round win over Mainland Tactix while Sam Sinclair's speed and deft touch on the feed were notable from wing attack.

De Bruin, who turns 39 on Saturday, says the Magic's less experienced players have made the most of their chances.

"They've learned a lot of valuable lessons, especially when they didn't have the old heads out on the court at the start of the season," she said

"They had to step up, and it's really pleasing to see them carry that through, and not sit back and relax and let the old ones take over again."

They'll be without two first-choice players in post-season play - Silver Ferns midcourter Grace Rasmussen ruled out with a season-ending knee injury, while goal shooter Malia Paseka has been sidelined by pregnancy.

Although the Magic have two regular season wins over the Mystics to boost their confidence, both were by only three or four goals and de Bruin says the Aucklanders are looking increasingly sharp.

"They've been struggling just as bad as we have in the injury department, but I thought in the last two weeks, they're definitely hitting their straps.

"But we've been in this situation before, and we know how to win."

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