23/04/2024

NSW Swifts Co-Captain Maddy Proud (Picture:NSW Swifts/Twitter)

Experienced NSW Swifts co-captain Paige Hadley has had a front-row seat to fellow co-captain Maddy Proud's impressive form this season but she maintains it's just what she's always seen from the in-form midcourter.

NSW Swifts co-captain Paige Hadley has had a front-row seat to fellow co-captain Maddy Proud’s impressive form this season but she maintains it’s just what she’s always seen from the in-form midcourter.

The form of NSW co-captain Maddy Proud has been at an all-time high this season. Throughout the season she has accrued 771 Nissan Net points, 263 goal assists (first in the competition), 50 turnover plays and 18 deflections.

Swifts co-captain Paige Hadley spoke to The Inner Sanctum exclusively about Proud’s form and the Swifts year so far.

“I’ve always seen that form, I guess her stats are probably outrageous and insane at the moment,” Hadley said.

“She’s playing exactly the same way, she puts her body on the line, she’s making multiple moves and she’s enjoying her netball. I think we’ve been playing together for five years so what we are seeing now, is what I’ve always seen with Maddy.

“She’s just exciting to watch and I’m just proud that she’s having a great year and we all needed to stand up, especially losing Sam (Wallace) so we are all just building together leading into these finals series.”

One feature of the midcourt for the Swifts is the changing of positions between Hadley and Proud. Depending on the opposition and game scenario, coach Briony Akle has been rotating them through the centre and wing attack positions. Hadley explains how this works and how strong their chemistry is as a duo.

“Obviously we mix up between that centre and wing attack role but you know I guess we play very different styles of roles which really compliments each other. Mads really likes to get involved and get into every ball and every play,” she said.

“I think for me it’s all about reading the play, opening that space to let her create that and I think being in a different role.

“We also have different strengths and different opponents and Briony (Akle) likes to mix it up to keep them guessing in terms of centre, wing attack or whoever the wing defence is.

“It’s cool to have different strengths but to be able to play together and compliment each other nicely and it’s been a long process for us to get here but it’s kind of nice that we know what each other is going to do and what we expect from each other.”

The Swifts have had a tough start to the Suncorp Super Netball season losing star shooter Sam Wallace to a season-ending ACL injury. Hadley explains how she and Proud have done their part to steady the team to help stay in contention to retain the premiership cup and start to build momentum to hopefully carry the team into the finals race.

“We definitely had a tough patch, me and Mads, we lost Sam and then we lost a few games in a row and we were trying to find our way and identity and this team,” Hadley said.

“The majority, the six of us have been together since 2017, so we’ve built this really great foundation and we expect success and have high expectations of each other.

“[We try not] to put pressure on all the younger ones, we need to take that pressure off them and allow them to play with freedom and their own strengths and bring them in but it’s also about knowing what we expect of each other.

“Training is ruthless, it’s hard and what we demand from each other. [In] the last three games you’ve seen that and I think the game against the Giants was a real turning point for us about bringing our game plan.

“I think Helen (Housby) as well, from that shooter post where she’s been a playmaker out the front to now being that leader in that circle and really owning that.

“We’ve all changed our roles a little bit and it’s about motivating people and it’s about seeing that work is coming off and it’s paying off.

“You know you can sometimes work so hard and you are not getting those wins on the board and it can be quite frustrating but to be improving each week with our stats and everything is just exciting.”

NSW Swifts Co-Captain Paige Hadley (Picture: @NSWSwifts – Twitter)

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The attacking end without Sam Wallace

One of the massive stories coming out of the first round of the season was the loss of star Swifts shooter Sam Wallace. She has been a centrepiece of the Swifts’ attacking circle and many onlookers were concerned that the Swifts would struggle without her.

Last season Wallace was a large contributor in the attacking end with 585 goals at 93 per cent accuracy and also made 26 super shots over the season.

Hadley said it took a while for them to work out their new look attacking end however they are happy with their progress in the last few games.

“I think it’s huge and particularly without Sammy Wallace in there, our whole attack end has changed,” she said.

“We are playing the ball around a lot more to open up the shooters and we’ve got to swing the ball around more and we’ve got to be really patient with that, then reset and start again.

“For us, it’s huge this year and obviously for the past four years we’ve had Sam Wallace in there, you know as soon as you hit circle edge, it’s one on one and Sammy can take any ball.

“It’s been very different to go to a moving circle and we’ve lost the height in there, so for us, it’s about using the triangles and using the swing balls and being patient.

“It’s challenged us and it’s crucial that we keep the ball in our hands to cover the supply and give our shooters as much ball because our defenders are doing a great job of getting it for us.”

Young Swift shooters

To combat the youth within the circle, the Swifts have utilised experience outside of the shooting circle. A role that Hadley has played this season as co-captain, is one of a midcourter helping to teach and usher in the new generation of Swifts shooters. Hadley said she’s very excited by the future of Kelly Singleton and Sophie Fawns with both showing signs of great potential and promise.

“I’m really enjoying that challenge at wing attack to connect with them and bring them into the game,” she said.

“I think at centre sometimes you get lost going up and down [the court] and the focus of wing defence is defence but wing attack I think you can really bring them in and I’ve been really enjoying that the last three games being in that position.”

Kelly Singleton is in the senior side this season after being a training partner last year at the Swifts, the 23-year-old shooter has been impressive this season with 58 goals and three super shots with mixed opportunities.

18-year-old shooting sensation Sophie Fawns was a part of the COVID cover this year for the Swifts in the first round before the injury to Wallace. She then became the temporary replacement for the Swifts and impressed the coaching staff so much that they signed her as a permanent replacement player for the rest of the season.

Hadley has overseen the pair’s development this season and said ushering in and working with her younger teammates is exciting for the team.

“Working with Kelly on the line and then when Soph comes on in that goal shooting position, the pressure is on them and they understand that and they’ve been under a lot of pressure at training to perform and go to the post every day,” she said.

“They know the expectations of a Swift and what we expect and it’s about bringing their own strengths, they are very different players.

“Kelly is very elusive, I think her play out the front is phenomenal and Soph obviously under the post has been as solid as a rock for us too.

“I’m really enjoying the challenge of it, they are young, they are exciting and they bring a lot of energy which is good, you can just feed off it as well in those moments.

“It’s been good trying to guide them and being able to teach them in terms of pressure moments, like when to take ones and when to take twos (super-shots) and when to work the ball. It’s exciting but it’s been tough for us, we are on a journey together but it’s a good one at the moment.”

That slow start

The Swifts had a rough couple of games at the beginning of the season, they lost their first two games and their first win came against the Collingwood Magpies. After this win, they had another close win against the Adelaide Thunderbirds who have looked lowly at times but also have played decent netball at other times.

It was hard to read the form of the Swifts as the season continued with three more losses following those wins to put them at five losses and two wins after Round 7. The turning point for the Swifts came against arch-rivals Giants Netball.

Hadley explains the confidence their recent winning streak has given them and how they are considering themselves still a chance for finals.

“If you’d had asked me, in pre-season [when] we had Sammy there and we were the reigning premiers, there was always pressure but it was exciting because we have a very similar team in terms of our starting seven,” she said.

“I think you look at the table now and it’s exciting and it’s four or five teams that are in that middle pack that can make that third or fourth spot.

“I don’t feel pressure, I think for us it’s about that stale patch in the middle there when we lost Sam (Wallace) we were trying to find our way in terms of how we were going to attack the game and what our game plan was. [In] the last few weeks you have seen that evolve and we’ve really embraced that and taken that on.

“For me, that’s exciting, we’ve still got so much to learn and grow, it excites me that we have still got four rounds to really put it into place to really put us in the best position coming into finals.

“It’s going to be tough to get there, we’ve got two of the top teams. We’ve got [the] Vixens and Fever who are unstoppable at the moment so if we can play the Vixens this weekend and get the job done, it’s probably a very big confidence booster for us knowing that our game plan can work against anyone.”

Familiar opposition at the Commonwealth Games

When looking ahead to the Commonwealth Games later this year in Birmingham, it’s exciting to see a raft of Suncorp Super Netball players, Australian and International being selected in squads.

For the NSW Swifts, the trio of Paige Hadley, Maddy Turner, and Sarah Klau have been selected so far, it’s a familiar opponent that catches their eye. English International Helen Housby has been a star for the Swifts in recent years and might line up against her Swifts teammates during the Games.

“It’s obviously weird and you try not to think about it too much (Commonwealth Games) and that sort of thing. We’ve got Helen (Housby), we’ve been playing with Helen for years and we come up against her in the Roses,” Hadley said.

“It’s always tough cause you know you want her to be great but you always want to beat the Roses.”

When considering the strong contingent of Jamaican talent in the SSN league such as Shimona Nelson, Jhaniele Fowler, Jodi-Ann Ward, and Kadie-Ann Dehaney. Hadley spoke through why she thinks they will be a real threat this time around.

“You look at the Jamaicans and what their defensive line is going to be. Their attack line is going to be formidable,” she said.

“Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson in the Thunderbirds at the moment are just flying so I think it’s going to be tough.

“I think this league (SSN) is the best league in the world, that’s why everyone comes here to play in it and develop players. It’s going to make [the] Commonwealth Games very tough.”

Briony Akle

Since becoming the New South Wales Swifts head coach in 2017, Briony Akle has taken this team from strength to strength. Guiding the Swifts to two premierships in 2019 and 2021 have been some of the highlights, however, Hadley explains how Akle keeps the group grounded and together.

“Briony has had a lot of challenges thrown at her in the last two years with hubs and how that challenges us physically and mentally,” she said.

“This year we’ve had to change up our style of game in terms of the attack end and that’s been throwing challenges at us as well.

“Briony is great at motivating us and we don’t just want one premiership or two premierships but we want a dynasty together and a lot of us, unfortunately, aren’t getting any younger, I wish we were.

“We just want to play our best netball together and make sure this group has the ultimate success and Briony has been a massive contributor in and helping us grow as people on the court as well as people off the court.

“You’ve seen that in the likes of Sarah Klau, [who] was in the Diamonds team and came across to the Swifts and now she’s regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”

More accessible Netball is better for the game

With Foxtel and Kayo taking the coverage for the Suncorp Super Netball competition forward, it is hoped that netball is more talked about and watched than ever. Sunday games for free, as well as no ad breaks within play, are other reasons that netball will continue to grow because it is more watchable as a television product and is more accessible than ever.

Hadley talks about the difference she has noticed in the coverage overall with social media taking more notice of the most popular woman’s sport in Australia.

“I think Fox and Kayo are great, to be able to watch every game live, ad-break free has just been phenomenal,” she said.

“The access they’ve had to players, we always watch it together and watch the other games and I think it’s just going to grow the sport even more and have worldwide access to it, it’s exciting for us.

“There is a long way to go, it’s what netball definitely deserves and in the last few months Fox and Kayo have done an exceptional job and I can’t wait to see what this five-year partnership can build for this sport.

“I’ve definitely noticed the access to the media in terms of people wanting to be involved with netball and wanting to watch and talk about super netball.

“You watch Fox League now and then you watch netball, it’s all one and I think people are converting and watching it and I think it’s good for the game.

“It’s where it should be in terms of growing with those professional sports because we have been a leader for women’s sports for so many years but we’ve got to keep pushing to make sure it stays that way.”

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