Swifts GK Sharni Layton defends the shot of Steel GS Jhaniele Fowler
Swifts GK Sharni Layton defends the shot of Steel GS Jhaniele Fowler

The NSW Swifts have opened their 2015 season with a win over the Southern Steel 68-62, but they were made to work hard for it by a tenacious Steel side.

After recruiting strongly in the off-season, the NSW Swifts have been touted by many as championship contenders.

The Steel came out of the blocks firing and pushed out to an early two goal lead just over the midway point of the first quarter, however a couple of late errors in the quarter saw the Swifts go up by 2 at quarter time.

Gina Crampton got the start for the Steel at WA in a midcourt shuffle after the departure of Phillipa Finch in the off-season. Combining with Shannon Francois alongside her, Crampton showed maturity and patience at times, not indicative of the minimal court time previously at this level.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit, as expected, was given the GA bib alongside the towering Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and quickly found that she would be wearing Swifts GD Julie Corletto for the majority of the game.

Despite a couple of brain lapses during the game, Selby-Rickit showed good signs, successfully finishing with 16 goals from 18 attempts, one intercept, one rebound, 20 goal assists and only three turnovers.

Post-match head coach Janine Southby said she was pleased with Selby-Rickit’s output throughout the match.

“Te Paea scoring 16 goals is quite high for a GA in this league playing with a tall shooter like Jhaniele. She had a couple of lapses, which she knew of, but it is all part of the learning experience.”

The young defensive circle of Phoenix Karaka and Storm Purvis were given the task of shutting down the experienced duo of Caitlin Thwaites and Susan Pettitt (nee Pratley). At times they were successful in slowing down the Swifts on attack, but the experience of captain Kim Green showed and it started to take the steam out of the Steel.

Each time the Steel made a run at the Swifts throughout the game, NSW were able to withstand it and make a run of their own, continually pushing the lead out each time they got a sniff.

A tight 4th quarter saw both teams going goal for goal for the majority of it, and it was only a matter of time before one team made a mistake that would change the momentum.

Unfortunately for Steel fans, a replay call saw the Swifts push out to a two-goal lead. It was evident that their hunger and determination for those brief final minutes of the game was just a step up from the Steel.

Post match Southby spoke of her disappointment at the loss.

“It was a game we all felt we could have taken out and that’s what is the most disappointing.

“I felt that the mistakes that we made during the match were not a result of the pressure from Swifts, but just individual errors we made ourselves.”

Steel captain Wendy Frew echoed Southby’s sentiments and was proud of the younger players who got court time.

“I thought that Crampton and Te Paea stood up tonight. It is all about gaining experience for them and they will continue to improve as the season progresses.

“We came up against a very experienced side and unfortunately we just need to be making smarter decisions.”

Swifts GK Sharni Layton had the tough task of shutting down Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and talked about the challenge post match.

“Coming up against Fowler-Reid, who I think is the best GS in the world, is the best test that I can have individually.”

“I felt that Jade came into the game in the 2nd half well, she got a couple of crucial intercepts that helped change the game for us.”

Layton also spoke about the invaluable experience of Pettitt and Green on attack.

“Having to train against them week in week out even we struggle sometimes, but the experience of Pettitt and Green is fantastic. It always lifts the team when the attackers start to work well and send in a beautiful pass.”

Coming up in Round 2 of the ANZ Championship, the Steel are at home this Saturday to the Mainland Tactix while the NSW Swifts head up to Tauranga to take on the Waikato/BOP Magic.