The NSW Swifts found a way to win the major semi final, despite a late charge from the Giants. The win in the third Sydney Derby of the year booked them a place in the Grand Final.
The Swifts jumped out to an early lead, courtesy of a strong finish to the first quarter, piling on the last six goals of the quarter to lead 20-12 at the first break.
Sarah Klau had four gains, with two intercepts in the first quarter. Those gains were capitalised on by Sam Wallace, who was 10/10 at the first break.
Tayla Fraser had the start in wing defence, and was tasked with slowing down rising Giants star Maddie Hay. She did that job well, keeping Hay to just two goal assists in the first quarter.
The Giants came back hard, winning the second and third quarters, and made it a one point game at three quarter time. The last quarter was as tense as the match deserved, with a spot in the grand final on the line.
It was resumption of normal service for the Swifts, as Wallace was perfect at the post, scoring 13 goals. With 90 seconds to go, the Swifts had possession and a one goal lead.
They turned on the possession netball that has closed out a number of games for them this season. Today, it went awry.
With 20 seconds left, Maddie Hay got a sniff of a ball, and turned it over, giving the Giants hope. Sophie Dwyer, who was excellent all afternoon, threw a wild pass in the direction of Jo Harten.
Klau jumped into frame for the match sealing intercept, a feat with did not go unnoticed by coach Briony Akle after the match.
“Sarah had a blinder of the game, and to come up with the winning intercept at the end, I thought it showed guts and courage, and certainly won that game for us,” she said.
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Akle was also happy to praise her star shooter, who scored every goal in the last quarter, after a tumultuous week, where she lost her aunt.
“Sammy [Wallace] has obviously had a tough week, and I thought her and Sarah had a fantastic game, and she shot really well, two opponents against her and she still shone bright,” the coach explained.
“A tough week and she’s still in good form and that’s dangerous for the opposition.”
Akle commented that after such a tough year, it meant a lot to the team returned to the Grand Final after missing in 2020.
“I think having the adversity, and not knowing where we were travelling to, I think it’s a sweeter victory because of how our team has managed all the issues thrown at us,” she said.
“I think it’s a great thing for our team to get through what we’ve gotten through, and we got to that Grand Final.”
The Swifts will now have a week off to recover, and to ensure that they are ready for the Grand Final. The last time the Swifts made the Grand Final, they were crowned champions, with a win that has set the tone for them ever since.
“A relief to be able to say we’re in the Grand Final, and we can just focus on training hard, and whoever our opposition is, be prepared,” Akle explained.
“I think it was a gusty win, we set it up early in that first half and obviously the Giants came back at us, but to be able to finish off, even if it was one point, I’m really proud of the girls, and we always knew it was going to be a tough, physical game and come to the wire, and it certainly did that.”
The Swifts will take the week off to mend, including Maddy Proud, who took a heavy hit late in the game. Akle said she’d since been cleared by the Swifts medical team, and would be sore, but otherwise okay after the game.
The Swifts have won the Championship six times previously, and are hoping to cap off their 25th season with another title. The last time they played in the big game, it was a 17-goal win over the Sunshine Coast Lightning in a clinical performance that kept the ball out of the hands of the fast-moving favourites.
It’s fitting that the most successful team in Australian netball is the first team booked into the last game of the season in their 25th season.
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