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Thunderbirds win title in extra time

ABC’s Britt Cartner reports on the SSN final.

It may have taken them a decade to get back on the podium, but the Adelaide Thunderbirds have finally lifted a national netball league trophy for the first time since 2013.

After spending nine years at the bottom of the ladder, the team in pink defeated the NSW Swifts 60-59 in this season’s Super Netball Grand Final in an extra-time thriller to secure their fifth title.

It’s the third time the Thunderbirds have got the better of the NSW side in four weeks, after ending the minor premiers’ nine-game winning streak in round 14 and backing up seven days later to win the major semi-final – securing their spot in the biggest match on the Australian netball calendar.

This meant the Swifts were forced to take the long route, knocking off the West Coast Fever in the preliminary final last week to get one last shot at a side they’ve been unable to defeat all year.

Alas, it was the Thunderbirds again who got the job done with their incredible prowess in defence, handing the Swifts their third extra-time grand final loss across the trans-Tasman and Super Netball era.

The contest between these teams has consistently been tight – just five goals separated them prior to this game – and that trend continued in their final meeting for 2023, determined in the end by just a single goal.

For Netball Australia, who sold the hosting rights to Melbourne as part of their $15 million Visit Victoria sponsorship, the match was a huge success despite it being played on neutral ground.

A sold-out crowd of 9,622 turned out to John Cain Arena to set a record for the largest-ever Super Netball attendance at that venue, beating the previous best set just a month ago for the final Melbourne derby featuring the Collingwood Magpies by 611 people.

Of course, there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before next season start, with a Netball World Cup to play later this month, but there’s already huge incentive for the winning side to try and go back-to-back.

Spurred on by the Thunderbirds fantastic form this season, the South Australian government reached out to the national sporting body with a last-minute attempt to steal the game. Unable to break the commitments of the sponsorship deal, instead it was announced earlier this week that Adelaide had bought the grand final rights for 2024.

A big part of the win was thanks to English Rose Eleanor Cardwell in her first season playing netball down under. Shooting 36 goals at 92 per cent, she was rewarded for her efforts with the Grand Final MVP award.


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