The underdog’s tag will sit just fine with veteran defender Leana de Bruin when a new era unfolds for Kia Magic in next year’s ANZ Championship netball competition.
With a new coaching staff of Australian Julie Fitzgerald and former Silver Fern Margaret Forsyth on board, and a host of fresh input from a playing perspective, the vastly experienced de Bruin looms as being tailor-made for the situation.
``I reckon it’s really exciting, a change is sometimes as good as a holiday,’’ she said.
``I think there’s been a lot of hype around Pulse and Mystsics and I suppose Steel as well about their recruiting but I’m looking forward to the challenge with Magic.
``We’ve got a lot of talent in the group and while we haven’t spent a hell’ve lot of time together and may start a little bit slow, we’re only going to get better as the combinations start working.’’
De Bruin shapes as a key figure for Magic in the season ahead, the defensive rock’s ability to thrive in pressure situations for the duration of a game being a trademark feature.
Jointly scooping the 2011 ANZ Championship Most Vaulable Player award while playing for an underpowered Southern Steel and earning the same accolade in Magic’s 2012 title-winning grand final epic against Melbourne Vixens typify de Bruin’s no nonsense qualities.
``You’re never too old to learn a few new tricks and I’m hoping Julie might just add something new to change things for me and make the players we play against think differently as well,’’ she said.
``The situation at Magic is probably a bit refreshing for somebody like me and Case (Kopua) who have been there for a long time. I’m really looking forward to the challenge it will bring and seeing some of the young guns stepping it up as well.’’
After starting her ANZ Championship career with Northern Mystics in 2008, de Bruin spent a year with Magic before heading to the deep south and two seasons with Southern Steel, returning to Magic in 2012, and the place she now calls home.
Having just bought a house and with son Caleb starting school next year, the decision to stay put was an easy one for de Bruin.
``I’m very happy where I am at the moment,’’ she said. ``Caleb and I are quite settled in the Waikato….for me, this is home and I’m quite happy to stay here.
``Netball plays an important part but at the same time I’m not getting any younger. I want to stay in the region and hopefully build some connections for me for afterwards…you’ve got to start thinking about those things as well.’’
A rural girl at heart, de Bruin’s recent purchase on the outskirts of Hamilton has five acres of land attached and with it a festive wish.
``The plan is to get a few calves over Christmas, so hopefully Santa’s nice and sends me some cows,’’ she said.
Much to her amusement, de Bruin, 36, will take over the mantle of Magic’s elder stateswoman from her great friend and former stalwart Irene van Dyk.
``I’d like to hope the young ones think I’ve got some value to add,’’ she said.
``Age is just a number for me and I don’t really think about it like that. I’ll give them a good run for their money on the fitness side of things and if they see you working hard in that area, they’ve got no excuses and hopefully it will motivate them to work a little bit harder as well.
``If that’s one thing they can learn off me, I’d be happy with that.’’
With the Commonwealth Games looming next year, de Bruin wants to stamp her mark ahead of the Silver Ferns gold medal defence with a strong trans-Tasman season.
``You always go out planning to have a good season but this latest ANZ champs probably wasn’t the greatest for me,’’ she said.
``People start to get to know how to play against you and what to do. That’s the downfall of being in the game so long. I want to bring something different next year and hopefully I can work with Julie on that.’’
The decision to bypass the recent Fast5 Netball World Series could also be an advantage with a view to the immediate future, de Bruin stressing the fast and furious nature of the abbreviated form of the game was physically demanding on an older body.