The NSW Swifts have many advantages coming into the 2018 season.
They’ve managed to maintain their core starting seven and, while young, this is clearly a talented team who could challenge for the finals this year.
Ably led by Abbey McCulloch, the club – who lost Kim Green, Susan Pettit, Laura Langman and Sharni Layton in one fell swoop – rebuilt well over the 2017 off-season.
Considering a raft of injuries that hit, particularly in the midcourt, the Swifts managed three wins and a draw in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season, with seven of their ten losses by a margins under nine goals.
Fitness would no doubt have been a focus over the off-season, with the Swifts’ fourth quarters usually their worst across the year. Their last three matches were their worst of the season.
The departure of Rob Wright, one year into his four-year rebuilding plan for the Swifts, was a blow to the team, but the high performance experience of incoming coach Briony Akle, particularly with younger players, should see the Swifts build on last years’ results.
They are a relatively young team, but shouldn’t be underestimated. Many of the Australian players in the side have represented the country at 21U level, made the Diamonds squad or are expected to over the next few years.
Sam Wallace and Helen Housby’s immediate connection was mighty impressive. Their introduction to the Australian league didn’t seem to faze them, but they will be looking to increase their volume. Together they boasted 89% accuracy.
Wallace was the focal point for the Swifts – her height made her a great target and despite a lack of experience at this level, held her own against some very experienced defenders.
Housby, fresh from her gold medal winning goal at the Commonwealth Games, will be a force to contend with, particularly in pressure moments. Her mobility and partnership with Wallace can only grow, if she can manage to stay injury-free.
Super Netball debutant, Sophie Garbin, broke the Australian Netball League record for most goals scored in a season last year and will be looking to make an impact if rewarded with court time.
The tried and true combination of Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud and McCulloch will make up the midcourt for the Swifts. While the midcourt trio, and 2018 leadership group, were hampered by injury last year, they have had an off-season to further build the combination and address the rut that the midcourt seemed to fall into when struggling.
The Swifts success will begin and end with their connection in the midcourt. At her best, Hadley is outstanding and her ability to find both Housby and Wallace will be pivotal. McCulloch had a 2017 season broken up by injury, but will be looking to make a real impact on big-name opposition.
Proud had a solid season at centre, registering the most goal assists of any player on the team. Claire O’Brien also impressed in her court time, holding her own against more-experienced opposition. She could be well used as an impact player to change up the structure.
The defensive end for the Swifts was their strongest area of the court last year. Sarah Klau was near the top of the leaderboard for the three most important stats for any goal keeper – deflections, defensive rebounds and intercepts.
Maddy Turner was one of the most consistent players for the side and rightly awarded their Most Valuable Player. Former Vixens training partner and World Youth Cup defender Kate Eddy will be aiming to debut at this level.
With the majority of this group now having a under their belt playing together, expect big things from the 2018 NSW Swifts.
2018 team list
Abbey McCulloch (c) WD/GD
Paige Hadley (vc) C/WA
Maddy Proud (vc) C/WA
Kate Eddy GD/WD/GK
Sophie Garbin GA/GS
Helen Housby GA/GS
Sarah Klau GK/GD
Claire O’Brien WA/C
Maddy Turner GD/WD
Sam Wallace GS/GA
Head coach: Briony Akle
Assistant coach: Anita Keelan
Training partners: Sophie Halpin, Lauren Moore, Nikki Deegenaars, Alison Miller