AFTER a sickening 13-goal loss to the Queensland Firebirds in Sunday's transtasman grand final, a despondent Megan Dehn admitted it was hard to put the Northern Mystics season in perspective when she was "so emotional".
But a day after the Mystics' history-breaking season came to an end, perspective has slowly started to return.
Having had some time to absorb their disappointing performance, the team are now able to look back at what they achieved this year with a sense of pride.
"They're a little bit down still," said chief executive Mark Cameron. "But they're in a position now where they're more able to reflect back on what they did to get that far."
The Mystics, who had never previously made the ANZ Championship play-offs, surprised almost everyone with their late-season form. Simply making the top four was a major breakthrough for a team whose best finish over the first three seasons was sixth.
But the maturity of their performances in their finals wins over the NSW Swifts and Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic to make the grand final, suggests the team have come of age.
Now their thoughts must turn to how they build on what they achieved this year.
One of the big challenges the Mystics will face next year is how they handle the transition from underdogs to one of the competition heavyweights and the pressure that comes with that.
Looking at the calibre of players in their line-up, their grand final failure wasn't for lack of talent and they will be keen to retain the nucleus of the group.
Mystics coach Debbie Fuller, who is expected to re-sign in the coming weeks, said it is important they keep the current crop of players together for as long as they can.
"You look at any good netball team and you will see that the understanding of the team out on court is what makes them successful and that understanding only grows the longer a team play together. Teams that have had their players together for a long time do have advantage, so that's what we want," she said.
The Mystics will look to move swiftly on re-signing their Silver Fern stars Anna Scarlett, Maria Tutaia and Joline Henry along with future national players Cathrine Latu and Kayla Cullen.
Open season on the ANZ Championship recruitment market was declared yesterday, and there are a couple of franchises - namely the Steel and Tactix - who are expected to be aggressively pursuing the country's top playing talent.
But Cameron believes with three of the five New Zealand franchises appointing new coaches for next season, the stability of the Mystics' programme will be seen as a big positive.
"We're in a far better position to retain our players than a lot of other franchises," said Cameron.
The only possible area of movement will be in the midcourt, with veterans Temepara George and Megan Dehn still undecided on their future.
Mystics management appear increasingly confident of at least luring their captain back for a fifth season, with one idea floated that 2012 could be a "benefit season" for George, similar to what the NZ Breakers did with foundation player Paul Henare this season.
The obvious reason for doing so is to honour George, an Auckland netball stalwart, but the ploy could also prove a strong motivating factor for the team to go one better next year and send their captain out on a high.
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