IT was an unprecedented season as the ANZ Premiership came to a halt after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but later returned in June to round out the remainder of the season, bar Round 10. The season saw plenty of intriguing battles as teams plied their trade across the court in hope to work their way up the ladder. Draft Central takes a look back at the year that was, with the first cab off the rank the bottom placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
Ladder position: 6th
Captain: Sam Winders
Overall season review:
It was a long time between drinks for the Magic as they registered their first win in Round 1 and did not manage to get back on the winners list until Round 8. They started off strong with their youth taking the step up to the next level but were ultimately plagued with inconsistency. They got the raw end of the stick on a few occasions, drawing two times to showcase just how competitive they could be when everything fell into place. It was a trying season for the bottom of the ladder Magic, who were not afraid to throw the bibs around in order to find the best starting seven.
Youngster Khiarna Williams shone bright with the goal shooter taking everything in her stride and not overawed by the physical nature of the ANZ Premiership while Kelsey McPhee developed her craft throughout the season. Abigail Latu-Meafou also stepped up in patches throughout the season highlighting her strength however the main issue for the Magic as a whole was a lack of volume and inaccuracy at the post. Speedster Whitney Souness was up to her usual tricks in the attacking third, darting around the court and zipping into the pockets or top of the goal circle to secure prime feeding position.
It is fair to say that captain, Sam Winders was the heart and soul of the Magic team throughout the season contesting every single ball and dictating the play. Starting off in wing defence, Winders moved into the centre position midway through the season and did not skip a beat, offering plenty of drive through the middle third to create space. She was often the link between the two ends able to seamlessly transition from one aspect of the game to the other such was her netball nous and read of the play. Her strength in defence was on show time and time again, picking up a wealth of ball around circle edge and using her fancy footwork to shut down her opposition player. Winders was often the player that sparked her side to kick it up a notch whether it be with a well-timed intercept, deflection or speed down the court to deliver into the goal circle.
A relatively unknown quantity heading into the season, Georgia Tong came into her own in the back half of the year showcasing her impressive aerial ability. Despite being on the shorter side for a goal keeper she was hardly beaten on the high ball coming in. The tenacious defender was a real competitor in defence for the Magic, not afraid to go out hunting for anything cross-court and using her speed off the mark to spark concern in the opposition feeders. She offered an element of versatility to the Waikato Bay of Plenty defensive line-up able to come on as an impact player or own the starting position with her quick footwork to manoeuvre around her opponent. Her connection with Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler steadily developed as the trio plied their trade as a unit to shut down opposition attack lines.