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2024 Preview: Mystics ready to push further

2024 Preview: Mystics ready to push further

A formidable-looking MG Mystics come into the 2024 season with the luxury of retaining eight players from last year’s winning team and with the firm focus of further lifting their standards.

As defending champions, the Mystics will have a target on their back this season but a stable core of proven performers have set a strong foundation.

Promising shooter Hannah Glen and young defender and former training partner Catherine Hall are the two newcomers.

It’s important that we lift to another level in everything that we do and that we find ways to be better than we have been in the past,” Mystics coach Tia Winikerei said.

“High performance sport requires every team and every individual to look beyond where they’ve been before and look for new ways in the way they innovate, both in how they play and their skill-sets.

“We’re looking to expand and be different. There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s really good already, so we’ll retain that while also looking at new ways to do things.”

Glen, a former NZ U21 player, has made the move north from Christchurch and will see action for the first time in 18 months after spending last season on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.

“It’s really cool to see her out there moving and playing netball again after her injury,” Winikerei said.

“And Cat’s fitted in really well. We’ve had some pre-season games and she’s starting to learn what it means to play at the speed of ANZ and we’re really excited about what both of them bring to the team.”

Getting off to a winning start in her first year as head coach in 2023, Winikerei learnt plenty and expects more of the same in 2024.

“I learnt so much. Even if you’ve been involved for a long time, like I have, when you’re doing it for the first time in the new role, everything’s brand new and you’ve got to find your way, and you’ve got to find your way fast.

“There were plenty of challenges and there were plenty of highlights. I loved every minute of it and it was bloody hard work.

“No matter what role you’re doing there’s constant learning but this one is certainly steep. The other part of that and going into year two, there are some things that are a lot more difficult for whatever reason. I don’t understand completely why, maybe it’s because we’re evolving and changing and whenever you do new stuff it’s new, so it’s hard and that doesn’t change.”

Because there are no pinnacle international events this season, the ANZ Premiership will revert to the longer format of one game a week, Winikerei emphasising that both the more compact and longer formats needed different preparation philosophies.

The challenges of the longer format included keeping the players excited and upbeat for the lengthy 15-week programme but on the flipside affording extra time for recovery and to spend on individual skills.

Mystics stalwart Michaela Sokolich-Beatson steps into the captaincy role this season with Phoenix Karaka, the vice-captain.