The last time the NSW Swifts and Adelaide Thunderbirds met was the final round of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball. The Swifts beat the Thunderbirds in convincing fashion that day, by 28 goals.

That was a long time ago and as neither of the teams contested the final series in 2018, they both had a long off season to re-group, re-gather, do some soul searching, and in the case of the Thunderbirds, get a sparkly new line-up that included a new coach.

In round 1 the Adelaide Thunderbirds pulled off a historic win over 2018 Grand Finalists, West Coast Fever, by one goal. It was their first win in two seasons and as a fan it was glorious to watch. Finally, the Thunderbirds had the win they had so desperately searched for. It was especially pleasing to see loyal foundation players like Chelsea Pitman and Kate Shimmin take home the points.

Hannah Petty (Thunderbirds) battles Kate Eddy (Swifts) for the ball. Image: Danny Dalton

Over the last week in the media, much attention had been given to the new defensive end for the Thunderbirds of Shamera Stirling and Layla Guscoth, and deservingly so as they were instrumental  in the hard-fought win against the Fever. They are a combination that will be exciting to watch as the script of Suncorp Super Netball is written for 2019.

Round 1 for the NSW Swifts was the Sydney derby against the Giants, and while the game was close for the first three quarters, the overall feeling of the game was that the Swifts were the dominant team, and in the end they won by seven. The line-up looked confident and settled, like perhaps something had clicked.

Coming into round 2, both teams were on a high from their previous performance and had the belief that they could take out the win. The season for both teams had started in the right way and winning today’s clash would move them into a healthy ladder position early in the season.

However, a week in netball can be a long time. One minute you are flying high, full of confidence and the next you are crashing back onto the hard floor of the court, unsure of exactly what went wrong.

Such was the story for the Thunderbirds against the Swifts.

Paige Hadley (Swifts) on the move. Image: Danny Dalton

The NSW Swifts have started this season with blistering pace; in round 2 they outplayed, outmuscled and outperformed their opposition. They left the Thunderbirds questioning all they thought they knew in round 1.

The Swifts welcomed Kate Eddy into the team in her first hit out of the season. The match up on court against Chelsea Pitman was, on paper, due to be an exciting contest. Pitman had a great game last week against the Fever; she has a calm, cool head under pressure, which is topped off with plenty of experience. Eddy is a young and up and coming superstar who never takes a backward step. In the end Eddy won the battle as Pitman was sent to the bench in the third quarter as coach Tanya Obst tried to find an answer for the Swifts.

Paige Hadley started the game in centre for the Swifts, which meant that captain Maddy Proud started in wing attack. What a delightful conundrum for coach Briony Akle to have each week. The Swifts lose absolutely nothing regardless of where Hadley and Proud play; and the speed at which Hadley covered the court against Kelly Altmann and the defensive pressure she applied during the game was truly impressive. Her determination was as evident in the first minute of the game as it was in the last.

Maria Folau (Thunderbirds) shoots over the long reach of Sarah Klau (Swifts). Image: Danny Dalton

The first quarter was tightly contested. the Thunderbirds were within one point of the Swifts towards the end of the quarter; and the attacking combination of new recruit Maria Folau and Sasha Glasgow looked like they had been team mates for years. Despite a spirited first quarter from the Thunderbirds, the Swifts had their nose in front going into the first break.

The ascendency of the game changed dramatically in the second quarter. The Swifts came out of the break with their tails up and their defensive pressure all over the court ramped up to a new level. The attacking end was led superbly by Helen Housby and Sam Wallace (who finished the game on with 31/31 attempts for 100%) were finding all the space in the world in and around the circle. Hadley, Proud, Wallace and Housby were having their cake and eating it too.

As was the case last week against the Giants, the defensive duo of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner grew in strength as the game went on. Their combination was topped off with the extra pressure created out in front by Eddy and Hadley, forcing many errors from the Thunderbirds attacking end. That gifted possession to the Swifts who were happy to capitalise on a Thunderbirds outfit who had lost their connections.

An array of attacking and defensive changes from the Thunderbirds followed, to try and stem the flow of goals the Swifts seemed to be scoring at will, but nothing seemed to help. It was pleasing to see Cody Lange take the court. After some horrid injuries in the last few years, we can only hope that she will continue to find her form for the Thunderbirds as the season continues.

Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds) and Sam Wallace (Swifts) going for the aerial ball. Image: Danny Dalton

The drive towards the ball had all but stopped from the Thunderbirds, and the heat with which they played last week against the Fever was fizzled out by an overpowering Swifts outfit, who never took their eye off the prize.

It was a complete performance from all players that took the court for the Swifts today. Sophie Garbin and Lauren Moore came on court, and both players took their opportunities. Garbin shot 6/6 (100%) and Moore (who only played 10 minutes in the fourth quarter) managed a gain and an intercept to her name.

It was also the first time the NSW Swifts had managed to take home all 8 points that were on offer, which is exciting for a team who by their own admission did not take advantage of the bonus point system last year.

If you were not convinced the NSW Swifts were the real deal in 2019 after round 1, you should be after today. There is a real conviction with how they are playing their game. They have a self-belief that was not there in 2018, and while other teams struggle to sort out new combinations in their playing line-up, the Swifts are the most settled unit in the league.

Sam Wallace (Swifts) puts up a shot. Image: Danny Dalton

They sit on the ladder with two wins from two matches, and the confidence that they will take from this start to the season is enormous. The Swifts have the luxury of their first 4 games at home, and they should ride the wave of the wonderful crowd they gather to their home games.

The NSW Swifts are out to prove a point, and other teams in the Suncorp Super Netball should be wary of them. There is nothing more dangerous than a playing group who have finally unlocked their key to success – and for the Swifts, that key is self-belief.

Final Score: NSW Swifts 61 defeated Adelaide Thunderbirds 43

(14-11, 21-10, 13-12, 13-10)

Line ups:

Swifts

GS – Sam Wallace

GA – Helen Housby

WA – Maddy Proud

C – Paige Hadley

WD – Kate Eddy

GD – Maddy Turner

GK – Sarah Klau

Bench: Sophie Garbin, Lauren Moore, Sophie Halpin

Changes: Q4 Garbin GS, Moore WD

Thunderbirds

GS – Sasha Glasgow

GA – Maria Folau

WA – Chelsea Pitman

C – Kelly Altmann

WD – Beth Cobden

GD – Layla Guscoth

GK – Shamera Sterling

Bench: Cody Lange, Hannah Petty, Kate Shimmin

Changes: Q2: Folau GS, Shimmin GK, Lange GA, Guscoth WD, Sterling GD, Petty C; Q3: Glasgow GA, Petty WA, Sterling GK, Altmann C, Shimmin GD, Guscoth GD, Cobden WD

Shooting Percentages:

Swifts:

Housby – 24/28 86%

Garbin – 6/6 100%

(Wallace – 31/31 100%)

61/65 (94%)

Thunderbirds:

Glasgow – 24/28 86%

Folau – 19/23 83%

(Lange – 0/1 0%)

43/52 (83%)

Key Statistics

Intercepts: Shamera Sterling 4

Deflections: Shamera Sterling 8, Maddie Turner 7.

Centre Pass Receives: Helen Housby 25, Maddie Proud 17.

Turnovers: Thunderbirds 31, Swifts 24

 

Sarah Klau (Swifts). Image: Danny Dalton

What they said after the game:

Briony Akle (coach, NSW Swifts)

“…For us to come out and stick to a game plan and to come out with that result, no disrespect to (Adelaide Thunderbirds), I know the potential of this team and I think they are finally realising it.

I think it’s obvious (with) any great team, you’ve had a combination for a long time, and these girls have stuck together. They made a choice to stay in Sydney and I think they will just keep growing. I knew that from pre-season and there is an inner belief they can pull through and perform like that.”

I thought Helen Housby was exceptional, she took the hits and she kept going for 60 minutes, and that is something that has probably lacked in her game before… even in defense I thought she did a good job.”

Thoughts on Adelaide’s defence end coming into the game:

“I knew we had an attack end that could match it and be better. Full credit to our girls they worked together, I think that is something we have probably lacked in the past, been a bit isolated…”

Looking forward to next week:

“…we still made a lot of silly errors, so we enjoy this, but obviously take what we can from watching Fever, they are another great team. It’s relentless each week you don’t know what teams are going to turn up like.”

Paige Hadley (centre, NSW Swifts)

On the attacking combination for the Swifts and the benefit of an unchanged line up:

“We have really been working on our combinations and I think we have a lot of versatility…obviously we have Sophie Halpin and me and Maddy (Proud) switching it up. We are a good versatile mid court, we are a versatile attack end and obviously we are just loving playing together this year”.

What has impressed her most in the last two games:

“Our hunger and our desire. I think our young defense end is doing a great job of getting ball back for us, and today that was a four-quarter effort. We won all four quarters, so that is a big bonus. I don’t think we have ever done that in Suncorp Super Netball. That is a big bonus for us.”

Kate Cornish

Email: katecornish@y7mail.com

Twitter: @KateKatecornish

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