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Mystics midcourt greats a worry for Magic

Friday, April 18, 2014

Update: 4:21PM Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald is wary of a Northern Mystics side bolstered by the influence of two New Zealand midcourt greats.

The second-placed Magic had a bye round last week to stew over their first loss of the season, 56-53 in overtime to the Central Pulse.

On Sunday they host the eighth-placed Mystics in Hamilton, braced for a far stiffer clash than their 50-36 round-two win last month.

The Mystics were without defender Anna Harrison for that game while goal shoot Cathrine Latu has also improved considerably since then.

However, a bigger concern for Fitzgerald surrounds the impact New Zealand great Temepara Bailey is having on the Mystics.

Bailey, 38, agreed to come out of retirement to fill some injury problems in the midcourt.

"The last couple of weeks have shown that they're really starting to find their form and the introduction of Temepara Bailey hasn't done them any harm," Fitzgerald said.

"I think she's an amazing player. You can't introduce someone like her into your line and not get a lift out of it. She has a great understanding with Catherine Latu."

The visitors will have the motivation of chasing victory for Silver Ferns centre Laura Langman, who will become the first player in the league to reach 100 games.

Ninety-two of them were for the Magic before shifting north over the off-season, where she has discovered some of her best form in recent weeks, including during their 65-62 win over the Canterbury Tactix last weekend.

Fitzgerald wants her team to ignore the Langman factor and concentrate on their own game against opponents who are more dangerous than a three win-four loss record suggests.

"For some of those teams that are sitting on four losses, if they lose another one they could really be struggling. So, we are in this pressure-cooker situation now where no team can afford a loss," she said.

"It's pretty cut-throat and I don't think there's too many competitions in the world that are as close week-in week-out as this one is this year."

A second New Zealand derby on Monday pits the two bottom-placed teams against each other in Christchurch, where the Tactix host the Southern Steel.

The other games see competition leaders the Melbourne Vixens host the defending champion Adelaide Thunderbirds on Saturday and the Queensland Firebirds home to the third-placed NSW Swifts a day later.

The Pulse (fourth) and West Coast Fever (fifth) both have a bye.

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