In the first match of Round 14 of the Suncorp Super Netball season, the NSW Swifts have defeated Adelaide Thunderbirds 58-53, as they draw level with the Top 3 sides. The loss to the Swifts ends the Thunderbirds season on a low note.
The Swifts were wearing their heritage yellow dresses, in celebration of the proud 25-year history of the club. It’s been a year of celebration for the Club, with such a rich history being celebrated, and so many former players and coaches around the league, including commentators Catherine Cox and Liz Ellis, and former coach Julie Fitzgerald.
Swifts coach Briony Akle, as a Swifts player, was one of those who once donned the yellow, and won championships in the colour. She expressed how much it meant to her, to recognise the history of the club.
“I gave the dresses to the girls last night and I really did want to cement the thought into their head that those that have come before them have probably led the way to them being professional netballers,” Akle explained.
“I think the girls took it to heart what that yellow dress meant, and what it means to them to be a red Swift, and the legacy of the club continues,” she continued.
The Swifts will again wear the yellow dresses in their second Round 14 match, against the Lightning on Saturday.
Looking at the Thunderbirds
After a week that involved a reunion with Akle, and a lockdown, the Swifts were focused, and handled their business in clinical fashion this afternoon.
After losing to the Thunderbirds earlier in the season, and Sam Wallace being beaten that day by Shamera Sterling, Akle got on the front foot and started Sophie Garbin in the goal circle.
The change worked, as Garbin had 33 goals, and limited Starling’s influence on the match while the result was in doubt. The Swifts got out to a strong start, leading 15-10 at the end of the first quarter.
In the third quarter, they again extended their lead by six goals, leading by 10 goals at the final break. The Thunderbirds finished strongly, pulling back five goals in the last quarter.
After the game, Akle gave credit to the Thunderbirds for their strong finish.
“I thought the Thunderbirds brought it to us, and we knew they were always going to be a team that’s tough,” Akle said. “They’ve got great players out there, so for us to hold our nerve in that last five minutes, I’m really proud of that.”
Despite Shamera Sterling’s influent being curbed, she still managed six gains, and the Thunderbirds defensive trio of Sterling, Matilda Garrett and Latanya Wilson combined for 14 deflections. They kept the Swifts to 58 goals for the match, can consider it another strong defensive performance.
“Playing the Thunderbirds, there are always going to be ebbs and flows and you’re going to do really well for a bit and then they come back because they’ve got that great defensive end,” Akle said.
It was the last outing for the Thunderbirds this year, with their season coming to an end without a finals appearance. It’s the eighth straight season they have missed the finals, and they have put together just five wins this year.
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The Swifts are level with the Giants, Fever and Lightning going into the final three matches of the regular season. The finals-bound will play each other in the final two matches of the season.
The winner of the Lightning and Swifts matchup will take on the victor of the match between the Fever and the Giants. It’s as precarious a scenario as Briony Akly has ever been involved in.
“I’ve never been a part of the last round, in terms of how that’s going to determine who comes 1-4, so I think that’ quite unique, but it also stands to justify that this is the best league in the world, and we’re playing the best players in the world, and you’ve got to be on your game every week to get that top 2 spot,” Akle said.
The win against the Thunderbirds has allowed the Swifts to settle again, and find some momentum going into the weekend.
“It was important for us tonight to get the win, coming off the back of two losses, and It was important for the girls to regroup and do what they’re good at,” she explained.
The Swifts matchup against the Lightning was a thriller last time, as the Lightning prevailed by four goals, as Cara Koenen and Steph Wood had strong performances in the Lightning circle.
Akle believes that the fact that so much is on the line will help her team, who have years of finals experience behind them.
“I think if you know what you’re playing for, and what it means at the end of that game, we’re a team that thrives on that, and we do like that sort of pressure, so for us, it’s going to be getting refreshed for the next few days and putting our head down and working,” she explained.
The Swifts will meet the Lightning at 12:30pm on Saturday as part of a double header to finish the regular season.
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