17/04/2024
Lauren Moore (L) and Tayla Fraser have both been grown as players for the Swifts this season.

Lauren Moore (L) and Tayla Fraser have both been grown as players for the Swifts this season. (Image: NSW Swifts / Twitter)

The NSW Swifts have cemented their place in the Suncorp Super Netball finals, and they've managed it without settling on a seven player line up so far.

The NSW Swifts have had a strong season in the Suncorp Super Netball, finishing second on goal difference, and booking a place in the Major Semi Final. Both impressively and concerningly, they’ve done it without locking in a starting seven line up to rely on.

While most teams in the Suncorp Super Netball have settled into a clear starting line up, and are comfortable in knowing who their impact players are off the bench, Swifts coach Briony Akle has spun the magnets regularly.

In the first five rounds of season 2021, the Swifts started four different line ups. In the nine matches since, there have been four different line ups, but none has been used more than two weeks in a row.

Two line ups stand out, however, and have been used for eight of the 14 matches this season.

NSW Swifts Starting Seven (Rounds 2, 3, 8, 9 and 12)Starting Seven (Rounds (10, 11 and 14)
Goal ShooterSam WallaceSam Wallace
Goal AttackHelen HousbyHelen Housby
Wing AttackPaige HadleyPaige Hadley
CentreMaddy ProudMaddy Proud
Wing DefenceLauren MooreTayla Fraser
Goal DefenceMaddy TurnerMaddy Turner
Goal KeeperSarah KlauSarah Klau

What is particularly interesting about the difference in the starting line-ups, is that Moore and Fraser are not necessarily the first players Akle thrown in as an impact player. Sophie Garbin has made an appearance in the first half of nine of the 14 games the Swifts have played this season.

The Swifts have relied on Moore, Fraser and Garbin (right three) throughout the season. (Image: Dani Brown)

Garbin’s selection in the Diamonds squad was not really a surprise. Despite the fact she comes off the bench most of the time for the Swifts, her work in the air and under the post is undeniable.

She has shown in recent weeks that she is able to hold off even the strongest goal keepers, like West Coast Fever’s Courtney Bruce in Round 9. Her strength in the air, and her reach for the high ball has also been invaluable in reducing the effect of rangy goal keepers, like Shamera Sterling of the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

That versatility, to be able to reduce the impact of both those damaging goal keepers has made her one of Akle’s most dynamic bench options. It forces defenders to adjust, and allows greater flexibility for the Swifts players as they feed the goal circle, as they know that the space away and to the back will be open for Garbin to reach into.

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Conversely, in matches where one of Moore or Fraser has not started, they have only made an appearance in the first half in four matches this season. More often than not, the midcourt mix has stayed the same through the first half.

The fact that the Swifts have started four different line ups in the last four matches has been as much about the condensed season as much as it has been about switching up the line ups.

The question for the Swifts will be, has the inability to lock down a starting seven helped them or hurt them going into finals? The answer isn’t clear.

Fraser is a natural midcourter, who has had 36 assists and four intercepts over her 12 appearances this season. Still a young player, aged just 22, Fraser has broadened her play this year, as she’s made the transition from a centre and wing attack to a capable wing defence as well.

Tayla Fraser has grown as a player for the Swifts this season. (Image: NSW Swifts / Twitter)

Fraser has become known for her trademark speed, a challenge for any wing attack going against her, who has to fight to beat her to the ball and to position along the circle edge. It has proven lethal in her ability to transform a turnover at any level of the court into a scoring opportunity for the Swifts, but her big improvement this season has been in that defensive pressure.

Five deflections and four intercepts this season has more than doubled her previous intercept history, and doing so on limited playing time has been invaluable for the Swifts as a difference-maker.

Moore, just a year older than Fraser is an entirely different player. Moore is a natural defender, and has been an understudy to Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau for a couple of seasons now. As a taller player, her big strength is her ability to turn up the pressure on the passing lanes and prevent opposing players from getting the easy pass in.

Lauren Moore (R) has also come on in leaps and bounds this season. Image: Dani Brown

Her nine intercepts and 25 deflections are more prolific than Fraser’s defensive stats, and her chemistry with Turner and Klau at the back end allows for a lockdown defence. Moore’s particular penchant for deflections has forced teams to slow their attacking ball down as they find ways around the 184cm defender’s wingspan.

It’s certainly clear that each of the Swifts options for wing defence poses a different challenge to the teams in the Suncorp Super Netball finals series. However, Garbin will likely be the first move made.

So this weekend, when the Swifts run out, it’s likely that they’ll have chosen one of two paths. With Tayla Fraser starting, it will be speed, trying to run Maddie Hay around, and make sure that she has to be accountable on both ends as the Swifts look to convert any stray turnovers.

With Lauren Moore, it will be a sign that the Giants will be forced to go the long way round to get the ball into the circle of Sophie Dwyer and Jo Harten, as Moore will disrupt the passing lanes and the circle edge.

Whatever happens, its primed for a tactical battle, and the Swifts have held their cards close to their chest.

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