Netball: Magic hoping results go their way

Leaders the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic will look to avoid another slip-up and then hope the calculator crunches out the right numbers as the final round of netball's ANZ Championship unfolds this weekend.

The Magic, who will be the only New Zealand team in the playoffs, hold on to top spot by virtue of goal percentage, with the in-form New South Wales Swifts breathing down their necks.

They have seen their four-point buffer at the top of the table evaporate over the past three weeks, with losses away to the Melbourne Vixens and the Southern Steel.

As was the case in their 47-43 defeat to the Steel last Monday, the Magic face another New Zealand side with nothing to play for but pride in the Canterbury Tactix.

Coach Noeline Taurua knows her players aren't going to get any favours from their compatriots in Hamilton on Saturday.

"The Tactix aren't going to lie down, they're going to throw everything at us," she said.

"They'll want to have a good finish to the competition. That's only human." The Magic can count on home court advantage against the Tactix.

What is against them, as the jostling for the playoffs reaches its climax, is that their fixture is the first of the weekend.

Even if the Magic get past the Tactix, the Swifts will know what they have to do against the lowly West Coast Fever in Perth on Monday night to overtake them.

If the Magic lose, they could drop to fourth, depending on how the other contenders for the top four -- the Adelaide Thunderbirds, the Vixens and the Queensland Firebirds -- fare.

The top two semifinalists get two lives and it would be hard to bet against the Swifts, who are on a six-match winning streak, being one of them.

The No 1 qualifiers have the added bonus of being at home in the first weekend of the playoffs, and it is worth noting that none of the New Zealand franchises have managed to win in Australia so far.

To separate sides who finish on the same number of competition points, calculators rather than simple mental arithmetic will be needed.

Goal percentage is arrived at by dividing goals-for by goal-against, and multiplying that figure by 100.

For Taurua, trying to determine what would be an adequate margin of victory against the Tactix was counterproductive.

She wanted the Magic to concentrate on the primary aim of securing two competition points, rather than get ahead of themselves.

"Firstly, we've got to win," she said.

"Then we take what happens after that on the chin, whether we have a playoff match at home, in Sydney, or anywhere," With the Magic's campaign having hit some recent bumps, Taurua was looking for improvements in the connections through the court and the links in attack.

While the Magic had had plenty of ball in all their matches, she said it was a case of finding the complete performance, which they hadn't quite produced.

The Thunderbirds and the Vixens will confirm their semifinal berths if they beat bottom-of-the-table Central Pulse and the Northern Mystics respectively.

But defeat for either would open the door for the Firebirds, who are away to the Steel.