Karla Pretorius of the Lightning and Helen Housby of the Swifts challenge for the ball. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Karla Pretorius of the Lightning and Helen Housby of the Swifts challenge for the ball. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Third time unlucky as Lightning loses spark in final

The Lightning have failed to strike thrice with the NSW Swifts claiming an upset 64-47 victory over the Sunshine Coast in the Suncorp Super Netball grand final at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

The Lightning were gunning for their third-consecutive Super Netball crown to send departing coach Noeline Taurua out a winner but the Swifts crashed the farewell party in emphatic style.

NSW led at every change as they buried the demons from the 2015 and 2016 national league deciders played at Boondall when they suffered heart-breaking losses to the Queensland Firebirds.

 

The Swifts celebrate after the final bell. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
The Swifts celebrate after the final bell. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

Cheered on by their vocal Red Army of supporters, the Swifts claimed their sixth grand final win - and their first since 2008 - with a relentless 60-minute performance that rattled the normally unflappable Lightning who lacked their customary polish, precision and poise.

The final term was a procession for the Swifts who occupied top spot on the Super Ladder for most of the regular season before an eight-game winning streak saw the Sunshine Coast surge to the minor premiership.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, they saved one of their worst performances for 2019, for the biggest match of the year. But they were also not allowed to play well by the Swifts.

 

Noelene Taurua tries to rev up her team. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Noelene Taurua tries to rev up her team. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

The "New South Wales!" chant rung around the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in the fourth quarter and was met with little response from the Sunshine Coast supporters who were witnessing the club's first-ever finals loss in seven matches.

The Lightning crushed the Swifts by 10 goals in the major semi-final two weeks ago but NSW brought the momentum from their preliminary final victory over the Melbourne Vixens to dominate the season showpiece.

Sam Wallace hit 40 goals from 44 attempts for the Swifts while Helen Housby added 16 from 19 for NSW.

Cara Koenen finished with 20 goals from 24 attempts for the Lightning with Peace Proscovia (16/18) and Steph Wood (7/12) chipping in.

 

Sam Wallace of the Swifts wins the challenge for the ball with Phumza Maweni. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Sam Wallace of the Swifts wins the challenge for the ball with Phumza Maweni. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

For the Lightning, captain Laura Langman is still weighing up her future and may join Taurua in leaving the club which has signed up eight of the 10 players from the beaten grand final squad.

In the 'premiership quarter', the Swifts quickly extended their lead to 10 goals before the Lightning stemmed the flow momentarily to get within six goals of the visitors who called a timeout.

But NSW re-asserted its authority on the decider to be up by 10 goals going into three-quarter time.

A sizzling 9-2 run late in the second quarter handed the Swifts a commanding 31-23 lead at halftime.

 

Swifts fans cheer during the Super Netball Grand Final. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty Images
Swifts fans cheer during the Super Netball Grand Final. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty Images

 

NSW held a slender 22-21 advantage at the halfway mark of the second term and they put the pedal to the metal with some swift and precise ball movement along with smothering defensive pressure.

The Swifts were never headed in the fast and frenetic opening two quarters as they exploded out of the blocks with the first three goals of the contest.

The Lightning were under the pump every time they passed the ball as the swarming Swifts cut down the time and space available to the Sunshine Coast.

 

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NSW got out to six-goal cushions a number of times in the opening quarter before the Lightning steadied - after a trademark Karla Pretorius intercept - to cut the margin to four goals at the first break.

The Sunshine Coast - who swung the changes at the misfiring shooting end with Proscovia, Wood and Koenen all used in the first half - closed to within a goal of the Swifts in the opening exchanges of the second quarter but they lost momentum and their handle on the netball and the Swifts pounced mercilessly.

 

 

A SWIFT EXIT WITH TROPHY

There was no way that acting Swifts captain Paige Hadley was forgetting to take the Super Netball trophy from the press conference back to the NSW dressing room at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Paige Hadley of the Swifts celebrates victory with niece Willow. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Paige Hadley of the Swifts celebrates victory with niece Willow. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Midcourter Hadley was part of the Swifts side that suffered heart-breaking losses to the Queensland Firebirds in the 2015 and 2016 national league grand finals - the latter being a sudden-death double overtime thriller - at the same venue.

But there were no anxious moments and no tears of anguish for the Swifts this time around as they led at every change in the 64-47 thrashing which represented a remarkable 27-goal turnaround from the major semi-final between the teams a fortnight ago.

"It feels amazing. I've got no words. After the heartbreak of 2015 and 2016, I knew this team was building towards something special,'' Hadley said.

"It produced today and it feels awesome.

"In the semi-final the nerves got the better of me,

"This whole week I enjoyed every moment because it's so hard to get to a grand final

"Everyone really stood up. Our defenders were ruthless and (MVP) Sammy Wallace (40 goals) under the post couldn't do any wrong. Normally we all have a bad game at the same time. I think we all had a good game at the same time.''

 

Briony Akle said her team prepared perfectly for the clash. Picture: AAP Image/George Salpigtidis
Briony Akle said her team prepared perfectly for the clash. Picture: AAP Image/George Salpigtidis

 

Swifts coach Briony Akle said her side ruthlessly executed the gameplan.

"We really focused on what their connections were and where we could shut them down. I thought we did that really early on,'' she said.

"We worked really hard during the week, did loads of video and made sure we transferred that to the court and repeatedly did that over and over again.

"I don't know where to go from here. We want to win this over and over again and I think that the Swifts have got a fantastic legacy. For us it's about celebrating this now and it starts all again in November.

"Hopefully we can keep this team together and get a few more of these trophies."

Injured skipper Maddy Proud said the grand final triumphed represented years of hard work for the Swifts who claimed their sixth national league grand final win and their first since 2008.

"We've had the ingredients for a few years and today was the day we put it all together,'' Proud said

"Having not come from the Swifts environment the Swifts were a team you looked up to and feared. To now recreate that with this new group is very exciting.

"We hope this is the beginning but we'll enjoy this for a little while now."

News Corp Australia


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