Suncorp Super Netball

A Grand Final 20 Years In The Making

GIANTS Netball head coach Julie Fitzgerald and Swifts head coach Briony Akle go head to head 20 years after winning netball’s top domestic prize together.

This weekend Super Netball culminates with an all-NSW Grand Final between GIANTS Netball and the NSW Swifts, led by Briony Akle, a woman Fitzgerald herself once coached to a championship twenty years ago.

It’s certainly a world away from the first Grand Final the pair shared two decades ago.

Swifts coach Briony Akle looks back on that time, and her former coach fondly, noting how much they did to advance the sport with that famous win.

“That team twenty years ago set up what netball looks like for New South Wales and its success and the fact we have two SSN teams in the grand final, I think it is a testament to Jules for her hard work back in those days setting up the success of this club and what it looks like now,” she said.

She also paid tribute to her friend and former coach’s off-court legacy and the positive environment she fosters in her teams.

“Julie’s probably the ultimate coach you want to be in terms of she cares about people on and off the
court and I think I see that in her team and how they respond to her and the fact she is still coaching at this level
is testament to that.”

Doing it for New South Wales

GIANTS coach Julie Fitzgerald is proud that a NSW Derby will decide the 2021 Super Netball Grand Final – the closest domestic season she’s ever been involved with.

That is coming from someone who has coached more than 350 first-class domestic league games.

“The difference between the teams is minute this year. Anyone could beat anyone, there were more upsets this year than I’ve seen in any league and I really think that’s where the toughness of the competition has really come through because of it,” Fitzgerald said.

While the match cannot be played in front of a home crowd, Fitzgerald is mindful of the positive stories of coming together through netball in difficult lockdown situations.

It’s her hope that this Grand Final serves to bring fans together even more.

“When you look at the turmoil in NSW and how depressing it is for them in the situation that they’re in… Bri and I have often dreamt of having an all NSW GF and I can’t think of a better year for it to be happening.”

These are sentiments strongly shared by Briony Akle, who believes the resilience of fans back home gives the playing group just as much heart in these difficult times.

“I’ve probably found resilience in the fact that people back home are suffering way more than we’ve actually suffered here. For me changing hotels… that’s probably minor compared to what’s going on back home and for us to be able to have the Suncorp Super Netball competition still running for me is the special part,” she said,

“Everyone back home’s support, their messages through NSW and to both teams has probably inspired both teams and the fact that we’re both there ready to take on the Grand Final is really cool.”

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