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Swifts reach SSN final

Swifts strike at death against Fever to book Grand Final spot

The NSW Swifts have reached a third Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final in five seasons, ending the West Coast Fever’s championship defence with a last-gasp 65-64 Preliminary Final win at a rocking Qudos Bank Arena.

NSW youngster Sophie Fawns was the hero, sinking a Super Shot with three seconds remaining to set-up a third meeting in four weeks with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

The 2023 Grand Final will take place at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena next Saturday night, but the Swifts will enjoy tonight before turning their thoughts to a shot at securing a third Premiership in five years, and their eighth in total.

On the ropes at stages, the Swifts somehow found a way to keep themselves in the hunt against a well-drilled Fever side that was clinical for the majority of the game.

Both Fawns and Helen Housby missed a slew of Super Shots earlier on, but the Swifts’ defensive trio of Sarah Klau, Teigan O’Shannassy and Maddy Turner did an excellent job of keeping Fever long-range shooter Sasha Glasgow out of play.

It meant the majority of their goals were single scores from 150-gamer Jhaniele Fowler, and despite being on top for long stretches the West Australians could never really pull clear.

Housby and Fawns found their range at the death and in front of almost 10,000 screaming fans, the seven-time Premiers found momentum when it mattered most.

Head coach Briony Akle made full use of her 10 players, inter-changing as the contest ebbed and flowed, and the final minute was a testament to the possession game that’s served NSW so well in recent years.

Paige Hadley and Maddy Proud used all their experience to play the clock down and give Fawns one shot at glory. The Wagga Wagga junior didn’t miss and it sent the crowd into meltdown.

It was also a special night for Romelda Aiken-George, a three-time Premiership winner with the Queensland Firebirds, who will now play a Grand Final for the side whose heart she broke in the 2015 and 2016 deciders.

The Jamaican international shot 25 goals from 26 attempts to show she remains one of the premier attacking threats in world netball, while midcourters Tayla Fraser and Lili Gorman-Brown continued to demonstrate their value at Super Netball level.

With Swifts icon and former captain Liz Ellis in the crowd, among other ex-Swifts, head coach Briony Akle said this win ranked as one of the Club’s great days.

“I am very proud tonight, I looked over at the end of the game and there was a host of former Swifts cheering this team on and I am just really proud of the legacy this current group is able to continue,” she said.

“To make a Grand Final is a remarkable achievement, and now we have a huge task because we know how good Adelaide are, but that’s for tomorrow – tonight we’ll just enjoy this. I think belief was key for us tonight. Maddy Proud said to me she felt the calmest she had all game with a minute-thirty to go, which is crazy.

“There are things to work on, but we’ll celebrate tonight and regroup tomorrow.”

The Swifts and Adelaide Thunderbirds meet next Saturday

IMG: Delly Carr

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