The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic netball side returned to New Zealand to a heroes’ welcome after making history in Australia the night before.
A group of Magic supporters welcomed the team at Auckland airport, who were still excited about their 41-38 win over the Melbourne Vixens in the ANZ Netball Championship final, the first victory for a Kiwi team in the competition.
Captain Laura Langman told Faifax NZ it was “surreal coming off such a rollercoaster game”.
“At no stage did either team have control of the game until the final seconds and I think the low score showed just how tense and close the match was,” Langman said.
Magic chief executive Sheryl Dawson was overcome with emotion.
“To see these people here cheering for the girls who have worked so hard – I’ve never had this before in my life and it is just so special,” she cried.
“We want to thank the fans not only from our region but the entire country for their support and wishes leading into last nights game – it’s been incredible.”
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker hopes to announce details tomorrow of a victory celebration for the team.
She said the Magic’s win would be a major boost for the sport in the region, and paid credit to the players, coach Noeline Taurua and the team’s support staff for turning around the team’s fortunes and claiming the title.
“For a team to lose its first four games of the season to go on and win 12 straight matches to claim the title is an incredible achievement. We are hugely proud of them.”
At three-quarter time the Magic looked like out of the running as they were down by six, but they put in a massive effort to lead by five with five minutes remaining.
They managed to hold their nerve in the final frantic moments, with Irene van Dyk, who only missed one shot all night, knocking in the crucial goals to keep them ahead.