NSW Swifts set up a trans-Tasman netball league grand final re-match with Queensland Firebirds when they closed out the Magic 60-52 in a see-sawing semi-final on Sunday.
The Swifts, who lost 44-55 to the Firebirds in last week’s elimination semi-final, secured their first trans-Tasman league grand final in seven years with the patchy win in Hamilton.
Neither side managed to deliver a consistent performance, but the Swifts’ variety and pace on attack and accuracy in the shooting circle proved decisive.
Swifts skipper Kimberley Green, who played only the last quarter as she continued her comeback from a calf injury, was satisfied with her team’s overall effort.
“We always knew the Magic had a lot of heart – they’re a classy outfit and we knew they were going to keep pushing us,” she said.
The Swifts would have to step up again against the Firebirds in Brisbane next Sunday, she added, after the Queenslanders thumped Northern Mystics 60-44 in the other semi-final.
“They went really well today – we had a little bit of a view of that. They’re a classy outfit as well, so it’s going to be really tough.”
Magic captain Leana de Bruin said her team had done well to battle back from a significant half-time deficit.
“When you’re 10 down, you’ve got nothing to lose so you might as well just play the game,” she said.
“I think we did that well, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it again in the last quarter.”
Strong circle defence from Julie Corletto and Sharni Layton featured throughout for the Swifts, particularly in the first quarter.
Jo Harten shouldered most of the shooting responsibilities, sinking 14 from 16 while goal attack Malia Paseka was restricted to one successful shot from just two attempts.
But while the danger signs were there for the Magic, they maintained composure and timing on attack lead 15-14 at the first break.
The Swifts stepped up the defensive pressure in the second spell, dominating the quarter 17-6 to lead 31-21 at halftime.
Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald, who coached the Swifts to the league’s inaugural title in 2008, benched Paseka at the break and the introduction of Ellen Halpenny at goal attack changed the game’s dynamic.
Between them, Halpenny and Harten sunk 19 from 19, hauling back the Swifts’ lead to 42-40 at the three-quarter mark.
Swifts coach Rob Wright’s tweaked midcourt, with Stephanie Wood now at wing attack and Paige Hadley at centre, couldn’t recapture the pace and flow of the opening half and Wright again rejigged his line-up for the last quarter.
With Clarke back at centre and Green at wing attack, the Swifts looking more composed in the attacking third, delivery better quality ball for Caitlin Thwaites (33 from 36) and Susan Pettit (27 from 29) to convert.