Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett says Silver Ferns' coach Dame Noeline Taurua helped convince her that a historic switch to New Zealand was a good career move.
By Bridget Tunnicliffe for rnz.co.nz
It seems an unlikely scenario. The captain of the Silver Ferns' arch rivals, contacting the coach of that team, to ask for advice about a potential move to enemy territory to revive her netball career.
But the pair have history.
In the first two seasons of Super Netball in 2017 and 2018, Bassett was a key member of the Sunshine Coast Lightning, which won premierships in both years while Dame Noeline was in charge.
"Noels is one of the people that I called quite early on. I really respect her opinion and I obviously played some of my best netball under her so after some conversations with her I felt pretty confident in my decision," Bassett said.
"And I think the opportunity to do something different while playing a sport I love, coming across to a country who are so passionate about netball and playing in a club that has hosted superstars like Irene van Dyk, Laura Langman and Casey Kopua I think it's an exciting thing to do and a great challenge."
The 32-year-old will become the first current Australian netball international to play in New Zealand's ANZ Premiership next season, signing a one-year deal, with an option for two with the Magic.
Signing the 100-plus Test veteran is a major coup for the Waikato Bay of Plenty franchise, who finished last this year.
While at the Lightning, Bassett also played alongside current Magic defender Erena Mikaere and the recently retired Langman.
Bassett will combine with new signing Chiara Semple and rising young talent Khiarna Williams in the Magic shooting end.
A tough 12 months
Bassett is making the move to get more court time after spending much of this year's Australian domestic season on the bench for her Giants club.
The introduction of a controversial super shot to that competition didn't work in Bassett's favour.
Two points were awarded for goals netted from the outer portion of the shooting circle, so the team's long-range shooters were preferred over Bassett's style of game.
The Magic approached her at the same time as she was getting frustrated at a lack of court time and when she asked the Giants to release her from her contract early, they obliged.
"They [the Magic] have been so patient with me the last couple of months while I've been sorting out and making sure I'm still eligible to play for Australia so I'm really thankful to them for that.
"I'm really thankful that Netball Australia has supported me and allowing me to come over and play. It's been a tough 12 months for me I guess and so signing with Magic is really exciting."
It's yet to be confirmed whether the Australian competition will continue with the 2-point shot next year but Bassett didn't want to take any chances.
"For me playing international rules is a bit of a no-brainer for me. I think it's going to be best to prepare me for 2022 Commonwealth Games which is coming up fast."
She said the other drawcard for her was playing against world champion defenders.
"I'm really lucky that I'm going to have Temalisi [Fakahokotau] and Erena [Mikaere] in my team and so playing against them in training week in week out as well playing against Silver Ferns' defenders across the competition is only going to get me to where I need to go and really challenge me ahead of major competitions that are coming up."
Coming to NZ for the right reasons
Bassett wants to help the Magic win again.
"I'm not coming over for fun, netball is a serious thing for me and so my aim is to help them get up towards the top of the ladder and really be challenging for finals and for premierships.
"I definitely think we can do that with the team that's been put together ...so excited about the challenge. I always find that when I get outside my comfort zone that's where my best growth happens and when I play my best netball."
The six-foot plus shooter has been a thorn in the side for the Silver Ferns for close to a decade and admits it will feel a bit strange having played so many times in New Zealand in the green and gold.
"I know how passionate the fans are ...I'm looking forward to having Kiwi fans hopefully cheering for me it might be a bit hard for them to start off with but I feel like I'm coming to New Zealand for all the right reasons.
"I want to help the sport grow and I'll be doing as many hours as possible getting out there and helping the younger generation, the grassroots netball try to develop as well as the two young shooters in our team. The Kiwi fans are just incredible and I can't wait to get out there and play in front of them."
Bassett said new Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich understood that she wasn't going to grow her game sitting on the sideline.
"I need to be out there actively playing and while her [Marinkovich] and Netball Australia would ultimately love me to be playing netball in Australia, this is the situation that we're in. So they've been fantastic over the last couple of weeks ...I wouldn't have gone without her blessing."
While Bassett isn't a fan of the 2-point shot, she felt it was more the way the Giants approached it tactically that left her sidelined.
"I don't think the rule change itself has had that much of an impact on me, it's just the way the coach of our team has decided to play with those rules. You see the Melbourne Vixens and Sunshine Coast Lightning they actually haven't used the 2-point shot very much, they've kind of continued their set game play and that's worked out really well for them.
"Unfortunately we've been in situations at the Giants where we've been behind so we've needed that two-point shot to try and catch us up as quickly as possible ...I'm not really particularly a fan of it still now but I think it can be worked around and smart teams have worked around it."
The Magic have been granted an exemption to field two ineligible players, with 24-year-old Semple having represented England's U21 team at the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup.
Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou have been not been re-contracted but one could be picked up by the Pulse, who have lost Tiana Metuarau to the Steel.