MONICA Falkner has made stepping up to the big time look easy.
In her maiden season at top club level, the 22-year-old former Trident High School student has helped the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to second place on the inaugural ANZ Premiership table. Playing at goal attack, Falkner has formed a productive partnership in the shooting circle with South African Lenize Potgieter.
Falkner is sixth in the league for shooting percentage and Potgieter is second. The 1.87-metre goal shoot has played 34 tests for the republic and Falkner said the relationship had developed well.
“Being an international player, she has brought a lot of different stuff. We have developed our partnership really well. We have a lot of trainings and that includes a lot of one-on-one debriefs and sub-group things.”
Falkner said she was running through five shooting sessions per week, and around 200 goals per session. The Magic started the season with three wins, before losing to the Southern Steel and the Northern Mystics. They bounced back with two wins including a 50-49 win over the Central Pulse in Invercargill on Sunday where Falkner shot 17 from 19 attempts. She shot two crucial goals late in the final quarter which gave her team a two-point buffer.
“We are happy with where we are at, tracking nicely, but have a lot of things we are working on. The season has gone really well and I have learned a lot of the little basics – things I thought I was doing well, but wasn’t.”
Falkner played in the Beko Netball League, the tier below the premiership, for Waikato Bay of Plenty last year and earned five most valuable player awards. It was there that Falkner made the move out to goal attack after playing most of her netball at goal shoot.
“I am learning every day and I have had to improve my attacking role in general. There is a lot more running around and you are the main mover.”
Magic coach Margaret Forsyth said Falkner had slotted into the team well.
“She has gone very well and each match she has improved a little bit more. Monica is learning and prepared to do the work. We have a nice mixture of experience and youth and I am really pleased with the way the team has supported each other and embrace those challenges.”
Forsyth also praised the combination of Potgeiter and Falkner.
“Making the transition to goal attack has been a significant move for Monica. From a conditioning point of view as well, now she has two-thirds of the court to work in and a lot more defence.”
Falkner is studying science at Waikato University and said she found a better balance now that she was a professional.
“Last year I was studying fulltime, playing netball fulltime and not getting paid and it was a big barrier for me. So this year uni has taken more of a back seat. I am doing two papers a semester, and that has allowed me to focus on netball but also live outside of study and netball.”
The Magic are on a 10-day break and will play the Mystics in Hamilton on Wednesday before taking on undefeated competition leaders the Steel in Rotorua the following Sunday.