The NSW Swifts pulled out a thrilling one goal victory over rivals the Giants, in the first Sydney derby for the season.
It was a break-through victory for the Swifts – their first against the Giants in Suncorp Super Netball, and their second come-from-behind win for the season. The Giants are seven years older than the Swifts on average, but experience couldn’t win the game.
The Giants were in control for most of the match and stretched the lead out to five a number of times; but were unable to close it out. Umpiring decisions didn’t fall their way late in the game, but it was costly turnovers and an inability to convert gains that were the main deficiencies.
Some of the emerging stars of Australian netball led the Swifts to success. Sophie Garbin again showed her value, entering the game at half-time and calmly slotting 17 goals from 18 attempts. Kate Eddy also had an impact in the second half, taking two intercepts and attracting half the penalties that Maddy Turner had in the first half.
In a league that heavily features the great imports of world netball (to the criticism of Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander), it is refreshing to see young Australian talent emerging at the highest level.
Garbin is the second-shortest GS in the competition – 8cm shorter than the average height of the starting goal shooters – but her hold is among the strongest in the competition. It is hard to believe her strength and accuracy weren’t rewarded with selection in the Australian under 21 team for the 2017 World Youth Cup.
The move east has been good for Garbin, who spent the last few seasons in hometown Perth stuck behind Fever shooters Natalie Medhurst and Kaylia Stanton. With Jhaniele Fowler’s move to Fever, it made sense for Garbin to seek opportunities elsewhere, and Sydney has been the perfect place so far.
Sarah Klau continues to wave a hand for future Australian Diamonds honours. She had a brief taste at that level in March, called into the Diamonds camp as a training partner to prepare the team for the Commonwealth Games. Jo Harten shot well, but Klau was able to disrupt the Giants circle at pivotal times.
Maddy Proud replaced Paige Hadley at C late in the first quarter and showed an immediate willingness to take on Serena Guthrie physically.
Helen Housby’s star continues to rise. Last year the Swifts were often competitive for three quarters and faltered during the fourth. In those games, Housby was sometimes a notable absentee in the final 15 minutes. This season, the Commonwealth Games gold medalist has taken her place as one of the most consistently reliable GAs in the world. Every clutch shot seems to be falling her way.
New coach Briony Akle’s formula is working, following on from Rob Wright’s development of young talent last season. The youngest team in the competition is playing with no fear and has been rewarded with a top four spot.
NSW Swifts 55 def Giants 54
(14-14, 12-15, 16-15, 13-10)
Player of the Match: Helen Housby (Swifts)
Housby 23/27 85%
Wallace 15/18 83%
Garbin 17/18 94%
Harten 38/41 93%
Pettitt 16/19 84%
Starting line ups
GS Sam Wallace
GA Helen Housby
WA Claire O’Brien
C Paige Hadley
WD Abbey McCulloch
GD Kate Eddy
GK Sarah Klau
Changes: Q1 Maddy Proud to C, Paige Hadley to WA; Q3 Sophie Garbin to GS, Kate Eddy to GD
GS Joanne Harten
GA Susan Pettitt
WA Kimberlee Green
C Serena Guthrie
WD Jamie-Lee Price
GD Rebecca Bulley
GK Samantha Poolman
Cover image: May Bailey