The New South Wales Swifts were victorious over the West Coast Fever in Perth on Saturday night. The Swifts did not look the side who completely dismantled the Fever in round 3, but showed fight to put the knife into Fever’s finals hopes. The Fever gave it a good hot go and had their opportunities to take the game, but lacked consistency in crunch moments.
Of the 14 players who started the game, six had recently returned from the Netball World Cup and four of them play for the Swifts. Teams were allowed to extend their squads to cover for this – the Swifts brought in ex-Silver Fern Kayla Cullen, and two pathway players from the ANL Waratahs side – Tayla Fraser and Matisse Letherbarrow. The Fever opted for young Western Sting shooter, Emma Cosh. Perhaps surprisingly, Fraser was given the start at wing attack, with coach Briohny Akle opting to rest returning Roses player, Nat Haythornthwaite.
Things looked promising early for the Fever. Alice Teague-Neeld was feeding shooter Jhaniele Fowler beautifully and putting her midcourters, particularly Colyer, in prime feeding positions with pinpoint passes into space. Unlike previous games, she also gained confidence early with two beautiful long shots finding their target. The Swifts defensive combination of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner were unable to make inroads with Teague-Neeld, Ingrid Colyer and Verity Charles all able to feed Fowler accurately.
The Swifts seemed more messy at the start of the game, perhaps not surprising considering the toll that eight games in ten days would have taken on the players involved. While the Swifts were trying to keep it simple by playing down the middle of the court, the Fever were denying them the space to do so. This was particularly obvious on the second phase off the centre pass, where the Swifts were frequently needing to go backwards to go forwards.
Fraser went on some great clearing runs in her debut game and was hitting the circle edge well, but was often not sighted by her teammates in the first quarter. With finals looming, the Swifts will need to deal with the loss of Maddy Proud and learn to bring their new players into the game. The Swifts midcourt also attempted to lob the ball into the goal third too many times and were cut off by the defensive work of Courtney Bruce and Shannon Eagland.
In the second quarter, the coaching mind of Akle came into play. The defensive duo for the Swifts had clearly been instructed to double back on Fowler and force Teague-Neeld to shoot. The jitters came back for Teague-Neeld who was called for a held ball in the first minute. The Swifts went on a five-goal run and the Fever quickly called a timeout.
Bruce was having a great game and when the Fever attack started to lose steam in the second quarter, she stepped up and won them ball, finishing the game on six gains. But the whistle really came into play for the Fever here, penalised 17 times throughout the quarter compared to the Swifts’ nine. Eagland in particular was failing to adjust and found herself out of play often.
With key members of their defensive line regularly out of play, the attack line for the Swifts had much more space and despite turning over the ball seven times in the second quarter, were able to put more pressure on the Fever. Crucially for the Swifts, Helen Housby who had been instructed to “get involved” by Akle earlier in the game had her best quarter of netball shooting nine goals with perfect accuracy and taking the bulk of centre passes for the Swifts.
Marinkovich opted to change up the defensive line slightly at the end of the quarter, bringing on Stacey Francis in wing defence and pushing Jess Anstiss out to centre. Kayla Cullen also made her SSN debut with barely a minute left in the quarter. The Swifts went into the halftime break up by two goals.
The third quarter was when things started to even up for both teams. Crucially for the Fever, Ingrid Colyer came into the game hugely putting away six goal assists for the quarter and finding both Teague-Neeld and Fowler in prime position. Teague-Neeld was perhaps unlucky with how many held ball calls she found herself on the end of – a stat surely not helped by the terrified look on her face or the multiple baulks before the shot went off. She finished the quarter having shot just one from three attempts. Her confidence to put up shots at the beginning of the game shows that this area of her game is being worked on, but there is still a way to go.
The Swifts were playing with promise, but still missing the easier passes into Fraser on the circle edge. Fraser was impressive in her first game and will no doubt be a star in future. Cullen had come into the game well, but was clearly not yet used to the dogged Australian defence style and gave Colyer too much space at times. She improved as the game went on and ended up with a crucial gain in the final quarter which secured the win.
The Fever drew the third quarter with the Swifts and had plenty of opportunity to eat into a slight lead in the fourth quarter, but were let down by key turnovers in transition. It seemed as though every time Teague-Neeld lined up to shoot, she was called for held ball. The Swifts were simply more careful with their possessions, with just one turnover in the final quarter. Sophie Garbin also entered the game, offering some much needed rest to Sam Wallace. Despite an early miss, Garbin filled in admirably shooting seven goals and offering a different mix of shooters for the Fever to think about.
Marinkovich was again tinkering with her lineup, bringing Eagland back on at goal defence and moving Francis out to wing defence again. Bruce was clearly on the Swifts’ radar as they struggled to feed the ball in, but true to form were able to play it around without turning it over. Bruce again drew the umpire’s whistle, unable to move her feet around her player quickly enough to get a tip. A crucial tip by Cullen with just two and a-half minutes left sealed the game for the Swifts.
The Fever’s final hopes were already slim prior to the game and a finals showing will now be almost impossible. They face the Vixens next week in Melbourne and will need to build on the glimpses of brilliance they had during the game. The Swifts are locked into finals now and will come up against fellow finalists the Lightning in the Sunshine Coast next weekend.
NSW Swifts 53 beat West Coast Fever 49
(13-16, 15-10, 12-12, 13-11)
Sophie Garbin 7/8 87.5%
Helen Housby 22/28 78.6%
(Sam Wallace 24/29 82.8%)
NSW Swifts 53/65 81.5%
Jhaniele Fowler 43/47 91.5%
Alice Teague-Neeld 6/12 50%
West Coast Fever 49/59 83.1%
Goal Assists – Teague-Neeld 17, Housby 17
Gains – Bruce 6, Klau 2, Turner 2
GS Sam Wallace
GA Helen Housby
WA Tayla Fraser
C Paige Hadley
WD Sophie Halpin
GD Maddy Turner
GK Sarah Klau
Q2: WD Kayla Cullen
Q4: WD Halpin; GS Garbin; WD Cullen
West Coast Fever
GS Jhaniele Fowler
GA Alice Teague-Neeld
WA Ingrid Colyer
C Verity Charles
WD Jess Anstiss
GD Shannon Eagland
GK Courtney Bruce
Q2: WD Stacey Francis; C Anstiss
Q3: C Charles; GD Francis; WD Anstiss
Q4: WD Francis; GD Eagland; C Anstiss
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