29/05/2024

Sam Poolman (L) and Sam Wallace (R) jostle for the ball in the first game of the Suncorp Super Netball. (Photo: NSW Swifts/Instagram)

The NSW Swifts and Giants Netball played off in the first ever match of the Suncorp Super Netball competition. Now coming into the first ever all-Sydney grand final, every milestone is converging on Saturday's season decider.

Five years ago, the Suncorp Super Netball competition came into existence. After partnering with Netball New Zealand for 10 years to create a Trans-Tasman league, Australia’s domestic competition once again stood alone.

With that split came the need for new teams. The Melbourne Vixens, NSW Swifts, Adelaide Thunderbirds, West Coast Fever and Queensland Firebirds, while pillars of Australian netball, were not enough to host all the nation’s talent.

Enter the Giants.

Joining alongside the Collingwood Magpies and Sunshine Coast Lightning, Giants Netball gave the Swifts a state rival for the first time since the Hunter Jaegers dissolved in 2007.

Fast forward to this weekend, and the two sides will be doing battle for the first time in a grand final; it’s the first time that two New South Wales based sides will be playing off for the premiership.

The ultimate battle couldn’t be more serendipitous for the two teams. They were the first sides to do battle for premiership points under the Super Netball name, opening the 2017 season at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

It was a fierce contest between the newfound rivals, with scores tied at the final break. All it took was a little bit of shooting magic from Northern Mystics shooter Kristina Brice in tandem with current captain Jo Harten to give the Giants the first win on the ledger.

Brice shooting for the Giants in 2018. (Photo: Kristina Brice/Twitter)

READ MORE: SSN Grand Final News

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The 2021 Super Netball grand final marks the 300th game of the league now in its fifth season.

It’s another statistical anomaly for the Giants: they’ve been involved in nearly every major milestone for the league so far.

In the 100th game of Super Netball, they downed – you guessed it – the Swifts, by 10 goals. The 200th game was a loss by the narrowest of margins to eventual preliminary finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The Giants might not believe in omens, but there aren’t as many strong signs to believe in as this.

Coach Julie Fitzgerald, who has overseen the Giants from that very first win over the Swifts to now, looks at the bigger picture. The team she’s taking into the Saturday’s grand final features just three of the starting seven from five years ago.

“For me, the most exciting thing is that I can look forward to the day… where we’ve had a few years together and we’ve grown and built on that,” she told media on Thursday.

“I think that’s the most exciting thing about our team.”

19-year-old shooter Sophie Dwyer will be playing in her first Super Netball grand final in just her second season at the level. Jamie-Lee Price similarly, while she’s became a Diamond three years ago, will be playing in her first chance for a top level domestic flag.

On the flipside, the Swifts are boasting grand final experience beyond compare. The entire starting seven that won the 2019 premiership will be taking the court on Saturday.

Captain Maddy Proud is awaiting the opportunity both to make it two flags in three years, as well as taking part in such a major milestone.

“Admittedly [today] is the first time I’ve heard that [milestone] stat, but it’s a pretty exciting one,” she told media on Thursday.

“I think that probably shows how special that relationship and rivalry is between the Swifts and the Giants. We’ve always said that every time we play each other it feels like a grand final.

“To now actually be doing it in a grand final makes it more special. We’ve said it a lot, but the fact is we’re playing for all the people back home in Sydney now given the current circumstances. There’s just so much to play for on Saturday.

“We were just talking before about how it’s now finally feeling real. 300 games of the SSN and to be back where it all began is pretty special.”

The Giants and the Swifts played off in the first ever match of the Super Netball competition. (Photo: Summerland Point-Gwandalan Netball Club/Facebook)

With every third of the court full of players who know how to handle the pressure of big games, the Swifts could hold a distinct advantage over their newer rivals.

The Giants will be playing their eighth finals match on Saturday, but Proud says that the advantage having had the whole Swifts group around for the better part of half a decade holds them in good stead.

“I was just walking with Sammy Wallace, and we were just talking about that, how far we’ve come,” Proud reflected.

“We started this journey together and the majority of us have been able to see it through as well. I think it just shows when you do get that core group together and you take the time to develop and learn and grow together, it shows on the court.

“We’ve been through a lot as a group. You think about where we started off and where we’ve come to now, the individual things that have happened along the way but also collectively, it’s been quite a journey.

“It just shows how special this competition is and how special this group is as well.”

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