18/04/2024
Nat Haythornthwaite in action

Nat Haythornthwaite started at wing attack in the NSW Swift's strong five goal win against Sunshine Coast Lightning. (Photo: Suncorp Super Netball/Twitter)

The NSW Swifts have earned a double chance in finals, defeating Sunshine Coast Lightning by five goals in the their final regular season game.

The NSW Swifts have earned a double chance in finals, defeating Sunshine Coast Lightning by five goals in the their final regular season game.

It all came down to a super Saturday to decide the top four teams final order for the year, and Sunshine Coast’s four late Super Shots were unable to overcome a strong Swifts performance.

The Swifts, donning their yellow heritage uniform once again, started in impressive fashion and opened up an early lead scoring six goals before the Lightning hit the board.

Swifts head coach Briony Akle was happy with how her team attacked their opportunity,” she told media post-game.

“We definitely turned up today, ready to play.

“Scoring 69 (goals) and not scoring a Super Shot, I think I’m really proud of how the attack end came out – especially off the back of probably not the greatest performances in the last few weeks.

“So the turnaround, to commit to our game plan and follow it through and to be able to have that sort of scoreline, it means a lot because I think they [the Lightning] are a great team and they’ve got lots to offer.”

At goal keeper, Sarah Klau was on top of Peace Proscovia early and it lead to a change in the Lightning goal circle. Cara Koenen made the move into shooter and young Binnian Hunt assumed the goal attack position in the absence of Steph Wood.

Not only were the Lightning without their goal attack star, but the Swifts rested Paige Hadley and started Nat Haythornthwaite in wing attack instead.

After the match, Akle was full of praise for the experienced mid-courter who has had little game time this season.

“Natalie had a great game, I thought she really took control of the attack and probably set that win up for us very early,” she said.

“She’s got loads of experience and she certainly showed that today.”

Sam Wallace was once again strong in goal shooter for the Swifts, scoring at 96 per cent.

Maddy Turner copped a knock in the final quarter and tried to play on, but at the next goal she called an injury timeout. Lauren Moore moved into goal defence and Tayla Fraser returned to wing defence.

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Kate Shimmin moved into goal keeper for the Lightning in the second quarter, looking for a different match-up against Wallace’s strong hold and it certainly lifted Sunshine Coast. Maddie Hinchliffe also made her Super Netball debut, going on into wing defence for the Lightning.

Sunshine Coast’s attacking end was quiet and lacked its usual spark without Wood on court. It struggled to bring the margin in after half-time and ultimately left it too late.

Despite the strong win, the Swifts will look at their final quarter. After dominating the first two and a half quarters, they shifted into neutral and cruised home to a comfortable win, throwing away some opportunities to really crush the Lightning.

“I think by half time we had 100 per cent possession gained conversion rate, so you know the difference from the first (half) and the second – it’s not good enough to end the game like that,” Akle said.

“That’s something the girls are disappointed in and we’ll certainly work on that at training – finishing off games.

“It’s really hard to get ball back as we know in this league, and we’ve definitely got to reward those defenders for that.”

Looking ahead to the finals series, which the Swifts will feature in at least two weeks of, Akle says the Swifts “think it’s achievable” to win the major semi-final and move straight through to the grand final.

“To be able to get in the top two spot today, that was obviously our first goal and our priority to do so.

“Next week it’ll be about training really well and taking advantage of that second shot, but hopefully we don’t need it.”

The second match on Saturday afternoon decided the semi-final match ups, where the Giants had a two goal win against Fever.

It’ll be a Sydney Derby in the Major semi-final, while Sunshine Coast face West Coast in the minor semi-final. Both semi-finals are confirmed for Saturday, August 14, but times are still to be announced.

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