NSW Swifts head coach Briony Akle will play a fundamental role in the outcome of the Super Netball Grand Final on Saturday.
To say this season has been difficult for Akle would be an understatement, but her persistence and direction have equipped the Swifts with the opportunity to secure their seventh championship title this weekend.
Despite restrictions initially preventing her from entering Queensland upon the Swifts fourth interstate move, the mother of four coached her team from Adelaide with the help of former international Bec Bulley.
Notching up 50 national league games in Round 4, the player-turned-coach has nothing but respect for Julie Fitzgerald, who played a significant role in her career.
But for the 60 minutes on Saturday, Akle will work against her colleague in an attempt to secure her second national league title.
Finishing second on the ladder to the Giants at the end of the home and away season, the Swifts missed the minor premiership on goal difference.
For Akle, this year was characterised by home schooling, quarantine and interstate travel.
The sacrifices she’s made as a mother and a leader have put the Swifts in a position to claim their second premiership in three years.
The Swifts started the season off strong, with a three goal win against the Firebirds, but Round 2 saw them fall short to the Fever with a 63-55 loss.
On May 23, Akle coached her 50th national league game with the Swifts going down by four goals to the Lightning at USC Stadium.
A small bump in the road against the Thunderbirds in Adelaide provided the ladies in red with some trouble, but the three straight wins that followed saw the Swifts move up the ladder.
The Giants handed the Swifts a four goal loss in the second Sydney Derby the following week.
Leaving Akle in Adelaide, the Swifts made the trip to Queensland where Bec Bulley took on the role of head coach whilst Akle spoke to her team through Zoom.
Superstitions for the Swifts provided some post-loss hope for Akle’s side who were left defeated by the Magpies in the absence of their coach.
The last time the Swifts lost to Collingwood, they went on to win the premiership in 2019.
Two days before her birthday, the Swifts took on the Giants with history on their minds in the major semi-final.
Hungry to one-up their cross town rivals, the Swifts took the victory and an extra week off, leaving the Giants to topple the Fever.
More SSN Grand Final News
Akle delivered the Swifts their sixth premiership title in 2019, with almost the exact same side that will take to court on Saturday.
Not only has Akle coached the Swifts to a premiership, she also played in the Sydney Swifts premiership winning team under the guidance of Julie Fitzgerald 20 years ago.
Akle has nothing but respect for Fitzgerald, who played a major role in the Swifts history.
“I look at Jules [Fitzgerald] and take my hat off to her that she is still coaching at this level,” Akle said.
“She cares about people on and off the court. I see that in her team and how they respond to her.
“The fact that she’s still coaching this level, I think is the testament that she is that type of coach.”
Experienced on and off the court, Akle plans to do everything she can to give the Swifts the upper hand on Saturday.
“I found resilience in the fact back home is suffering way more than we’ve actually suffered up here,” Akle said.
“For us to be able to have the Suncorp Super Netball competition still running… is the special part.”
Akle’s side know it will be a tough battle against the Giants, given the history between the teams and the close proximity to which they train, but the clash gives fans at home something to be excited about.
Akle will capitalise off having such a versatile line-up, with Lauren Moore and Tayla Fraser sharing the wing defence position all season.
The Swifts are the one team in the competition who don’t play the same starting seven week-in week-out, which makes it difficult for opposing teams to plan match-ups between powerhouse players.
Inspired by history and driven by legacy in the 300th Super Netball game, the NSW Swifts will battle to keep the Giants without a national league title, with the benefit of having family members in the crowd.
Subscribe to our newsletter!