A MAGIC KIWI CELEBRATION
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Categories: Netball - ANZ Championship
De Bruin says Magic victory 'for our country', while inspirational van Dyk confirms she'll play on
By LORISSE DART
WRITTEN off after the first four games of the season, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic is the toast of New Zealand after winning the country’s first ANZ Championship title.
The Magic, perennial finalists in their third grand final in the five-year history of the league, swept to victory with a remarkable 12-game winning streak that started on the last night of April and finished on Hisense Arena at the expense of the minor premiers, Melbourne Vixens.
In a sports-mad country of 4.4 million where netball is second in popularity and public interest to only rugby, the Magic’s 41-38 victory is so significant it will transcend the fierce rivalry between New Zealand’s five ANZ Championship clubs.
The nation will celebrate the title as one – made even sweeter by beating an Australian team on its home court and in front of a near-capacity crowd of more than 9000.
It was no exaggeration when player of the match Leana de Bruin said the win was “Unbelievable, it’s right up there with the All Blacks winning the World Cup ... we did this for our country”.
New Zealand will also be jubilant at the confirmation from national hero – their adopted South African – Irene van Dyk that, at 40, she will not retire.
Van Dyk, who became a New Zealand citizen in 2005, is very much a Kiwi despite playing and captaining South Africa, and will go down as the world’s greatest goal shooter when she rips that bib off for the last time.
Her pleasant, easy-going manner makes her the smiling assassin of world netball, and she is extremely popular among Magic and Silver Ferns teammates, as well as opponents and fans.
The legend of van Dyk has grown even more because of the way she has conducted herself in the past week.
Her husband Christie received an awful phone call from South Africa just hours before last Monday’s preliminary final, with the news that van Dyk’s mother had lost a long battle with cancer.
Yet, despite her deep grief, van Dyk did what she said her mother – also named Irene – would want her to do – play on in the finals.
The mum of Bianca, van Dyk played her reliable, accurate, clever and athletic game in that win against Auckland rivals Northern Mystics, the thriller going to extra-time and van Dyk shooting a game-high 35 goals.
And in the grand final – wearing a black armband in tribute to her mum – she again top scored, missing just one shot in her 25-goal haul for a 96 per cent strike rate, while no other goaler in the arm-wrestle hit above 75 per cent.
Van Dyk and Bianca will now head to South Africa to grieve with the rest of the family and to bury her mum in their home town of Meyerton. Her father Hermon died of a heart attack 20 years ago.
Last week van Dyk told the Waikato Times: “I think of them (Mum and Dad) together now watching me play netball from the comfort of their chairs – they would want me to keep playing so that's what I must do.
“Noels (Magic coach Noeline Taurua) said to us on Monday we have to play for today – play for those in our families who had passed – including Mum – and not hold anything back ... .”
No doubt Irene Sr and Hermon were both out of their seats when the final whistle blew on Sunday’s emotional and deserved championship win – and stayed out of their seats when their daughter declared: “(The rumours) are definitely not true. I’ll be back next year, definitely”.
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