JUST a premiership quarter worth of effort was what separated NSW Swifts and West Coast Fever in a seesawing match on Sunday night, to cap off Round 2 of Suncorp Super Netball. While Fever had the first half all but sewn up, the Swifts came out firing in the third and it was just enough to come away with a one goal win in a high-scoring affair (73-72).
With Courtney Bruce ruled out ahead of time the Fever were coming in without their captain and key cog down back in defence but did not skip a beat in the first quarter with their intensity against the reigning premiers impressive given the youth down back. Nat Haythornthwaite got the start in wing attack and even though her footwork was impeccable she did not seem to open up her usual space around circle edge. The Fever defence started really well with Olivia Lewis fighting for every ball on her more experienced opposition, while Jhaniele Fowler was huge at the other end. The battle between Lauren Moore and Alice Teague-Neeld was huge from the very first whistle with the two players going head to head and well matched, while in the Swifts attack, hesitancy going into Sam Wallace limited chances of going to post. With a small lead with just over five minutes played, the Swifts called a timeout to ground the side and settle.
The midcourt hands over pressure was influential from the Fever, but Swifts’ patience after the timeout paid dividends, gradually chipping their way down the court and cleaning up well with the injection of Maddy Proud doing its job to snip the lead to two goals. Sophie Craig started well on Ingrid Colyer, with the speedy wing defence putting hands over pressure on every ball. The beginning of the super shot period saw Teague-Neeld find her range immediately, shooting two on the trot as the Swifts continued to chip away. The Swifts midcourt defence was huge and worked multiple missed shots back into play, edging back into the contest and levelling the score at 17-apiece.
Helen Housby and Stacey Francis were well matched and physical as ever, with both England internationals doing a wealth of work to win back ball, made clear by a huge couple of midcourt moves. Jess Anstiss had to be removed from the court with the blood rule with less than a minute on the clock, and the Swifts took it in their stride to disrupt play to go into the second with a two goal deficit at quarter time (18-20).
The second saw a couple changes through the court for the Swifts, with Sophie Garbin joining the fray in goal attack and both Haythornthwaite and Proud getting the nod. Lewis continued to win back plenty of ball, zipping out into the front space and denying Wallace the ball. The Swifts’ patience seemed to go missing, seeing Paige Hadley join the court in wing defence and using her speed to disrupt play. But the Fever attack was hard to stop and Sunday Aryang was doing a heap of work to block vision, seeing the Fever extend a five goal lead and maintain that range for much of the quarter.
Wasting centre passes, the Swifts seemed out of sorts and a scathing timeout from Briony Akle saw a few changes with Tayla Fraser and Nicole Styles on the court, with Proud’s mounting errors seeing some wayward ball go flying and Fever picking up all the scraps. A lack of super shot siren saw neither team take many attempts from the two-point zone, while the Fever midcourt defence and hands over pressure was influential, extending the lead to 10 with under 10 seconds on the clock, before a huge clash between Haythornthwaite and Francis gifted Housby a super shot attempt, taking on the pressure to reduce the lead to eight at half time, 41-33.
The changes were made once more heading into the second half with Sarah Klau moving to goal defence and Garbin down in goal shooter alongside Housby. Garbin’s injection was immediate against Lewis, with the two knowing each other’s game well but Garbin’s reach and strength paying off. The Swifts did not look like they were coming from behind but instead like they were well in control, with a four goal margin secured just minutes into the third quarter. The Swifts’ confidence and Garbin’s presence demanded the ball, with 11 goals to four in the first six minutes seeing the Fever call a timeout with just a one goal margin.
Every player was out hunting for the loose ball, with Housby taking advantage of the super shot to extend a two goal lead with the next centre pass allowing Garbin to add another to the tally. Garbin’s rebounding ability was just as significant as her ability to put goals on the board, influential and coming away with a huge eight goal lead going into the final quarter (60-52).
Dominating the third quarter, the Swifts came into the final term with all the momentum and plenty of confidence to get the job done. With Garbin still holding ground well in goal shooter and the change in defence between Klau and Moore doing wonders, the side was bristling with a win but the Fever would not let it go that easily. Matching goal for goal early in the quarter, it seemed like the Swifts would run away with an easy second half victory, but the Fever kept hunting down the ball and reducing the margin little by little to ensure they had a chance once the super shot period began. It was easier said than done though, with the Swifts’ patience paying off down the court and their collective ability to stop Fever’s movement in its tracks influential.
A few late contests from Francis saw the physicality well and truly take its toll on the Swifts, with plenty of players hitting the deck but the reigning premiers not letting up out the front and playing through the intensity. The high pressure final quarter saw the Fever struggle to edge back the margin, though the super shot period saw the Fever take advantage of every super shot chance they had, with Fowler shooting all three Fever two-point shots for the quarter to reduce the margin. But the Swifts’ settled approach to the game, paid off as they kept hold of the ball, with the Fever trailing by one with less than a minute on the clock. Fowler’s leveller saw the Swifts eat up time to finish, only just getting away with the one goal 73-72 victory.
The Swifts’ 27 goal haul in the third was the highest individual quarter score in Suncorp Super Netball history, with Garbin’s huge 21 goal term seeing the goal shooter change the course of the match for player of the match honours. Garbin finished with 28 goals at 88 per cent, with both Housby and Wallace racking up 19 and 17 apiece in the mid-70s for accuracy but producing all eight super shots between them. Housby also tallied two intercepts, while Moore racked up three and Proud dominated the assists with 20 and Hadley not far behind with 15. For the Fever, Fowler was just about unstoppable with 53 goals from 57 attempts including four super shots, aided by Teague-Neeld with 11 goals (three super shots) and 20 assists. Verity Charles was also influential out the front with 20 assists and an intercept, while Lewis was huge down back with seven gains (two intercepts) and Aryang had a great injection into the game with four deflections to disrupt play.
NSW SWIFTS 18 | 15 | 27 | 13 (73)
WEST COAST FEVER 20 | 21 | 11 | 20 (72)
GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Sophie Craig
GD: Lauren Moore
GK: Sarah Klau
GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Alice Teague-Neeld
WA: Ingrid Colyer
C: Verity Charles
WD: Jess Anstiss
GD: Stacey Francis
GK: Olivia Lewis