A late surge propelled the NSW Swifts to victory over the Collingwood Magpies at Ken Rosewell Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The constant defensive pressure of reinvented goalkeeper Sarah Klau has helped the NSW Swifts turn around their fortunes mid-match and bounce back to the Super Netball winners’ circle with a 62-53 win over a dogged Collingwood Magpies.
Klau’s statline included nine gains, six intercepts and seven deflections as she proved a constant pest for Magpies shooter Shimona Nelson, who looked early as though she might dominate the match.
The Jamaican goaler had been key to Collingwood’s back-to-back wins in the fortnight before their clash against the Swifts and she was on fire early, with 38 of her 41 goals coming in the first three quarters.
Klau had applied pressure all match but started to really get the upper hand in the final term, with Nelson eventually subbed out of the match as Klau dominated and the Pies chased super shots in a bid to gain lost ground.
The Swifts had earnt the ire of coach Briony Akle after lacking poise and smarts under fatigue in the final stages of their loss to the Sunshine Coast the previous week.
But the coach had nothing but praise for her players, who converted a one-goal lead at three-quarter time into a comfortable win.
“I think Collingwood were just tough,” Akle said.
“It was a hard grind and (the defenders) knew the ball would come if they kept working hard off the ball and on the ball and they were definitely rewarded.
“Shimona (Nelson) is no easy feat to defend and when she holds up to the post it’s really tough.”
Diamonds defender Klau has raised her game to another level this season and is becoming a serial pest for opposition shooters and her efforts were rewarded by her teammates at the opposite end of the court.
Akle’s injection of Tayla Fraser in the second quarter changed the game, with the midcourter helping provide a more direct route for the ball, with her pace and aerial ability the perfect foil for Magpies defender Ash Brazill, who had dominated the game early.
Swifts shooters Sam Wallace (46/48, three super shots) and Helen Housby (8/10, two super shots) picked up the pace in the final quarter, with Housby’s tireless drives and leads forcing the Magpies defenders to give her shooting partner the room she needed to thrive in the key final minutes.
It might not always have been pretty, but in a match that early data from the Swifts’ sports scientists indicated was their most intense of the season in the first half, Akle was happy.
“You’ve got to take the wins in (Super Netball), I think we’ve seen that this round with some upsets,” she said.
“Every team has some great players in it and it’s literally if you can finish that off and play that cliched 60 minutes or at least 55 really good minutes.
“We did not underestimate (Collingwood), we knew that they’d had two great wins and have got some great leaders and great players out there.”
Fraser’s injection game changing
Missing Maddy Proud for a second consecutive week with a foot injury, the Swifts struggled in the midcourt, converting only about 53 per cent of their centre passes in the first quarter, with Nat Haythornthwaite in particular struggling.
Coach Briony Akle changed things up in the second term, injecting Tayla Fraser at wing attack as the Magpies pushed their lead out to five.
The move helped the Swifts claw back the margin almost immediately, with the 21-year-old giving the home side the extra speed they needed on the drive and circle edge.
Fraser’s battle with Brazill was also captivating with the Magpies defender praising her athleticism, speed and aerial game, labelling her a gun.
Magpies in limbo
Victoria’s latest Covid-19 lockdown caused the Magpies to head to Sydney a day earlier than planned and the squad had to return negative tests before the match could go ahead.
Collingwood is due to play the Melbourne Vixens in a derby at John Cain Arena on Saturday but players from both teams headed interstate last week knowing they may not immediately return to Victoria.
Both teams will take advice from Victorian Health and Super Netball officials before determining their movements this week.
NSW SWIFTS 62 (Wallace 49, Housby 10, Garbin 3)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 53 (Nelson 41, Sinclair 8, McCollin 4)