The NSW Swifts were crowned champions of the Suncorp Super Netball for 2021 with a thrilling win over the Giants 63-59 in the grand final. While Sam Wallace’s shooting stole the headlines, there is more to how the game was won.
There were certain parts of the match that showed the differences between the two sides. In particular, a matchup, a statistic and a moment made all the difference.
The Matchup: Maddy Turner v Sophie Dwyer
Maddy Turner was deservedly player of the match, as the winner of one of the key matchups of the day. Her performance in slowing down Sophie Dwyer was vital for the Swifts, but it was just part of a total performance by the Swifts.
Aside from the matchup, the Swifts controlled the ball for the day and made better use of it when they had it.
|Sophie Dwyer||Dwyer vs Swifts in 2021||Dwyer – Grand Final||Maddy Turner||Turner vs Giants in 2021||Turner – Grand Final|
|Centre Pass Receives||18||11||Rebounds||1.33||2|
Sophie Dwyer is in her first season starting as a goal attack. At just 19, it’s her first major final, and for the first time this season, the nerves might have shown.
While Maddy Turner is a brilliant defender and has been one of the Swifts’ best all season, the Grand Final was her masterpiece. While most of the numbers don’t jump out, they reflect that Turner kept Dwyer quieter than normal today.
Dwyer was second on the Giants for Centre Pass Receives (CPRs) across the year, with 234, averaging just under 15 per game. Against the Swifts, she has taken on even greater importance as a playmaker, as the Swifts have matched up well against Maddie Hay throughout the season, who leads the Giants for CPRs.
Those CPRs were markedly down today. Turner put in a power of work before the centre pass to ensure that the ball wasn’t going to Dwyer consistently. In the first quarter, in particular, Dwyer had a solitary Centre Pass Receive, and a single feed. Turner managed to keep her out of the game, and had an intercept and a deflection of her own by the first break.
While Dwyer was slightly more involved in the play in the second quarter, she had four CPRs and four turnovers to her name and looked like she was struggling.
Turner sat out the final 90 seconds of the quarter and was deep in conversation with Swifts coach Briony Akle as play unfolded. Whatever Akle said to Turner at half time worked, as the defender came out with three gains and two rebounds in the third quarter.
After three quarters, the Swifts led by nine goals, and Dwyer had eight CPRs. Her season average against the Swifts was 18, and with less than half that number three quarters through the Grand Final, the Giants were in trouble.
One of the underrated elements of Turner’s game is her physicality. She finds the body of her attacker and forces them to work hard to hold her off the ball. She gave away six contact penalties in the first half, which would normally have worked in the Giants’ favour.
This time, it appeared that that early emphasis on physicality helped to slow Dwyer, and may have resulted in her feeling overawed by the occasion. Turner gave away just two penalties in the second half and was able to spend more time getting into passing channels to disrupt the ball and create turnovers, and less time marking Dwyer’s body.
The early work paid off in many ways for her, and by the end of the match, Turner had managed to dampen Dwyer’s scoring and playmaking abilities. It also showed as Dwyer gave away eight contact penalties as well, a season-high for her.
There is no doubt that Dwyer will be better for the experience, and will improve her game going forward, but it was a critical matchup today. While she received plaudits all season, for the way she stepped in and up, and rightfully so, today wasn’t her day.
More Grand Final News
The Statistic: Ball Control
It wasn’t just Dwyer that struggled for the Giants in the grand final. Across the court, the Swifts dominated in the fundamental areas.
Compared to the previous matchups between the teams, it is clear that the Swifts managed some of their fundamentals compared to the Giants.
|2021 Grand Final||Average against opposition in 2021 (%)||Quarter 1 (%)||Quarter 2 (%)||Quarter 3 (%)||Quarter 4 (%)||Grand Final Average (%)|
|Swifts – CP to Goal||76||71||69||80||87||77|
|Giants – CP to Goal||71||60||54||64||93||68|
|Swifts – Gain to Goal||78||100||100||80||33||70|
|Giants – Gain to Goal||64||50||33||50||0||40|
|Swifts – Time in Possession||51||50||54||57||58||54|
|Giants – Time in Possession||49||50||46||43||42||46|
The time in possession is particularly glaring. The Swifts, vaunted for their ability to control the ball and play, showed exactly why that reputation came to be. The longest streak of passes the Giants managed for the day was their last possession in the first half, ending in a Jo Harten super shot.
For comparison, the Swifts managed more than twice that in their longest passage, and had a number of possessions longer than the Giants longest.
Their ability to hold possession, particularly late in the game, when they held the ball for 57 per cent of the third quarter and 58 per cent of the fourth quarter, came to the fore as they forced the Giants to take more risks late in the game.
The Swifts were able to convert on both their centre passes and their gains into goals better than the Giants. No doubt Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald would have lamented the inability to turn gains into goals for the Giants, especially as they watched the Swifts convert with ruthless efficiency.
That efficiency, particularly on converting gains into goals allowed the Swifts to build the margin quickly. In the first quarter, the Swifts shot out to a six-goal lead before the Giants got on the board, and then put together back to back goals twice more in the quarter.
The Giants managed three runs of three goals in a row, allowing them to pull the margin back through the quarter, but their inability to capitalise on turnovers hurt them,
The Swifts managed four runs of back to back goals in the second quarter, including off four of the eight unforced turnovers by the Giants, while the Giants managed it only once, despite three gains.
The Giants poor discipline with ball in hand particularly hurt them late in the second quarter leading into half time, because the game had changed when they returned from the main break.
The Moment: The Third Quarter
The Third Quarter is where the game changed. At half time, the Swifts held a four-goal lead. The Swifts were shooting at 91 per cent accuracy and had created two gains.
|NSW Swifts||Third Quarter – 2021 Grand Final|
|Time in Possession||8:56|
|Shooting Accuracy||89 per cent|
|Centre Pass Conversion||80 per cent|
|Gain Conversion||80 per cent|
15 minutes later, the margin was nine goals, and the Swifts had built a lead that allowed them to control the tempo of the game.
The Swifts held the ball for about 8:56 of the third quarter, totally controlling the flow. The Swifts had five gains in the third quarter, half of their return for the match, and Maddy Turner was the star of that show, with three gains herself.
The Swifts were ruthless in their play, with 89 per cent shooting accuracy, going at 80 per cent conversion for both gains and centre passes to goals. Fifteen of their 17 goals for the quarter came from those two sources, as the Swifts piled on three consecutive goals twice in the quarter.
The Giants’ last score for the quarter was with four and a half minutes remaining, and the Swifts controlled the ball for all but the 60 seconds of the quarters from there.
In one particular passage, the Swifts strung together 28 passes and held the ball for 62 seconds before putting up a shot. The impact of passages like that cannot be overstated.
Firstly, it forces the Giants to actively defend the length of the court at all times. Secondly, throwing short sharp passes, the Swifts minimised the potential for any deflections or turnovers, and thirdly, the Swifts were able to set themselves up for a shot in Sam Wallace’s preferred position under the post, where she was certain to score.
And then they had the centre pass following that passage, where they held the ball for another 28 seconds before scoring.
When it was all said and done for the quarter, the Swifts had pushed out to a nine-goal lead and were able to play a safer, more conservative style in the final quarter.
In the end, the Giants fell short, despite winning the final quarter by five goals. While they scored 19 goals, they actually only had 15 shots fall through the goal, and the extra points were super shots.
Of the eight Giants super shots in the final quarter, six of them came in two possessions. After Harten made one with four and a half minutes remaining, the Giants took their centre pass straight down to the same area, before they missed four consecutive attempts, before sinking the fifth of the possession.
Despite that ability to rebound and maintain possession, the passage took two minutes off the clock and was part of how the Giants ran out of time for their comeback. It was symbolic of the fact that on the day, the Giants just didn’t quite have the ability to execute as well as their opposition.
While one match up, one quarter and one statistic don’t tell the full story of the day, they paint the picture. The Swifts, as they did in 2019, showed up on grand final day with a clear plan, and executed the plan at a high level. And like in 2019, it was enough to secure a premiership for the team coached by Briony Akle.
The Swifts have been crowned Suncorp Super Netball Premiers for 2021. And now starts the plotting and planning for seven other coaches, as to how they will lift the trophy in twelve months time.
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