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Ian Harkin
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Jessica Halloran
The Age

IT WAS the perfect end to a perfect season as the Sydney Swifts held the premiership trophy to create Australian sporting history. After smashing the Adelaide Thunderbirds 65-36 last night to win the grand final at Olympic Park Sports Centre, the Swifts became the first team to go through an entire national league season undefeated, winning 16 successive games to lift their third title. Not since since rugby league’s St George went through a season unvanquished in 1959 has a club achieved such a feat at national level.

Swifts shooters Catherine Cox and Susan Pratley had a brilliant night under the net, Pratley scored 26 goals from 26 attempts – Cox 39 from 43. But numbers aside, for Sydney captain Liz Ellis last night’s victory meant redemption. After a horror 12 months, where she had her right knee reconstructed and missed out on the Commonwealth Games team, Ellis finally felt everything had turned around for her.

With a team plump with Australian team members – including Cox, Pratley, Gerrard, Gilsenan, Ellis – the side was raging favourite all season. Last year, they had a patchy build-up and were humiliated in the grand final by 17 goals by the Melbourne Phoenix. And, so, everything was tense but perfect in the end last night.

It was a scattered and frenetic start from both teams. But Cox settled early, bagging 11 goals from 11 attempts. Against the crack goal defensive combination of Ellis and Alison Broadbent, Thunderbirds’ Kristin Heinrich managed two goals and Natalie Medhurst eight. The Swifts started with a small lead of three goals (13-10) in the first term. It was well into the second quarter until Cox missed her first goal but Pratley had found her groove and had not missed a shot, shooting seven from seven in the quarter.

It got physical up the other end of the court when Ellis flew through the air, cleaning up Thunderbirds centre Natalie von Bertouch, who thumped to the court after the collision. While the Thunderbirds were left languishing on the pine, smart work from Selina Gilsenan in the midcourt kept the ball falling into the hands of the Swifts shooters. The Swifts went into the long break up by nine goals (28-19).

In the third, the Swifts started to demolish the Thunderbirds. Defender Mo’onia Gerrard and attacker Kimberlee Green led the way in the midcourt. The scoreline blew out in this quarter to 39-22. By the close of the third, the Swifts were up by 22 goals.