Combining the unknown with a touch of familiarity has shooter Ellen Halpenny buzzing about Kia Magic’s prospects in next season’s ANZ Championship netball competition.
As part of the New Zealand National Accelerant Group, Halpenny has been on the national selectors’ radar for some time and prospered in her first year with the Waikato/Bay of Plenty team after shifting north from the Tactix.
After losing the world’s most prolific shooter Irene van Dyk in the off-season, Magic’s shooting stocks for 2014 will be spearheaded by England international Jo Harten, Halpenny and exciting young guns Malia Paseka and Brooke Leaver. Paseka and Leaver were members of New Zealand’s recent World Youth Championship-winning team, the potential of Paseka heralded by her inclusion as a training partner for the Silver Ferns tour to England in January and addition to the National Accelerant Group.
While there has been a changing of the guard in terms of playing and coaching personnel for next season, Halpenny is enthused by what lies ahead.
``I think it’s quite exciting because it’s going into an unknown,’’ she said. ``You’ve got a coach (Australian Julie Fitzgerald) who’s got really good credentials and you’ve got players who have been around for a while as well as the young ones coming through, and putting that mix together you really don’t know what’s going to happen, so I just think it’s really exciting.’’
Halpenny is looking forward to teaming up again with Harten, the pair having played together at the Tactix in 2012. The 1.88m Harten has proved herself for England and in a struggling Tactix team with her unflappable temperament, strong movement and ability to shoot from anywhere while the ever-improving Halpenny turned a significant corner in her career during the 2013 season.
With Harten 24 years of age, Halpenny 23, and Paseka and Leaver younger still, there is plenty of scope for the shooting quartet to develop on its undoubted talent into a potent force.
``I loved playing with Jo at the Tactix and I had a really good friendship with her off the court as well, so it’s exciting to be in her team again and to build on where we have come from,’’ Halpenny said.
``Since we last played together we’ve both grown as players and people, it will be exciting to see what we’ve learnt in that year….to show Jo what Irene has taught me, teach that to Jo and then see what more can be made out of it.
``She’s had a great season with England, she was a standout every week for the Tactix so once again it will be exciting for her to see what it’s like week-in week-out training against the Casey’s (Kopua) and Leana’s (de Bruin).
``She’s never really had that and I think she’s just going to blossom. Then throwing in a new coach who’s got a whole new style, it’s more than exciting.
``Jo is still very young and to think what she’s done so far, it’s pretty cool.’’
Finding it a bit lonely training on her own in Christchurch, Halpenny can’t wait until Magic finally get together on a permanent basis in early January.
``From a team perspective, it’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen at this stage,’’ she said.
``We’re coming together in January and most other teams have already started their team stuff, so for us we all know as a team that we’ve just got to get stuck into it and get down to business straight away.’’
On a personal note, Halpenny’s main aims for 2014 are maintaining consistency and ensuring her shooting statistics are ``nice and high.’’