Today’s Suncorp Super Netball grand Final saw two teams from New South Wales face off against each other for the first time in the league’s history. Despite being from the same state, these teams don’t have much else in common. With two different styles of play, the Swifts are a team that like to get on with things, short sharp passes on that first second, helping the ball to get quickly downcourt to their shooters. The GIANTS on the other hand are a bit more patient, holding on to the ball and waiting for the space to open up on the third second.
There’s no doubt that it’s been a tough season for all of the teams in the SSN, so to have finally arrived at the Grand Final feels like an achievement in itself. With both teams representing the state of NSW, it was always going to be a game fuelled by passion, but it was the Swifts that took the trophy after a hard-fought match. We’ve taken a look at some of the key players from today’s SSN Grand Final.
There were absolutely no problems with Sam Wallace’s shooting radar today, as she finished the game with a 96% shooting rate. Right from the get go, she ensured the Swifts capitalised on the turnover ball from GIANTS, taking them to 6-0 up within the opening minutes. As we’re so used to seeing from Wallace, she remained calm and collected despite the Grand Final pressure, sinking 3/5 super shots and picking up two offensive rebounds.
Her decision making was on point too, knowing the right times to come out of the circle and offer another option to the feeders to ensure ball movement in the shooting third. I think, because she has always been a solid shooter, we forget how much the rest of her game has improved since she joined the Swifts. The use of the baseline and now-iconic split were both pretty handy weapons in the Swifts’ arsenal today.
On any of the day, Wallace would have picked up MVP, and many fans would have considered her a shoe-in, but she was pipped to the post by one of her teammates at the other end of the court.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a player that flies under the radar. Maddy Turner had a tough job on her hands today, lining up against GIANTS superstar Goal Attack Sophie Dwyer. Dwyer has been a revelation for GIANTS this season, and is known for keeping cool under pressure, as well as her ability to turn and sink super shots from anywhere.
From the first whistle, Turner put pressure on Dwyer and didn’t take her foot off the pedal for 60 minutes. It wasn’t anything flashy, but was just a fantastic example of a player doing their job really well. With two rebounds, two intercepts and four gains to her name, the numbers weren’t huge, but for me the work she did off the ball was more important today. If we look at Dwyer’s stats however, that’s where you can really see the impact that Turner had.
With just 3/8 super shots, ten penalties and seven general play turnovers, Dwyer looked rattled from the beginning, and it was probably the first game for a while where she retreated into her head. Turner did what any good Goal Defence would do and kept the pressure turned up to 11.
A brilliant performance from the Swifts defender, one that certainly helped her side secure the win and ensured she took home the Grand Final MVP award.
Tayla Fraser has worked hard to cement her position as the starting Wing Defence in the Swifts lineup. She had arguably one of the hardest jobs today, taking on an in-form Maddie Hay at Wing Attack for GIANTS, but the Swifts defence had clearly done their homework. Fraser was effective at working with Turner and Klau in shutting down the pocket that the GIANTS attackers love to use, and she was integral in those first few minutes in helping the Swifts get out to an early 6-0 lead.
I think she was really effective at putting doubt in the mind of Hay and the GIANTS feeders and finished the game on six penalties which, when you consider how effectively she shut down Hay, is pretty impressive. her work shutting down Hay’s drive into the pocket is a must-watch for any budding Wing Defences out there.
Natalie Haythornthwaite came on to replace Co-Captain Paige Hadley in the second quarter. Whilst it was by no means a poor performance from Hadley, and both players certainly have the speed at Wing Attack, Haythornthwaite seemed to provide a bit more stability to the shooting end. With just one penalty to her name, compared to six from Hadley in the first two quarters, it seemed as though the Wing Attack was a calmer injection into the game.
Her connection with Wallace and England Roses teammate Helen Housby was clear, and she helped to deliver the ball quickly and effectively to her shooters. Her ability to see the space combined with pinpoint feeding accuracy means she is a real threat from circle edge.
The Swifts bench
Ok so I know this isn’t technically a key player performance, but I don’t think we can underestimate how the Swifts have used their bench players this season and the effect that it has on the Grand Final.
There seem to be two types of coaches in this world, those that use their bench as impact players and factor them into their game plan, and those that only really play their bench players when they’re winning by a big margin or as an injury replacement, and I feel like Briony Akle is the former.
With superstars like Sophie Garbin, Lauren Moore and Natalie Haythornthwaite on the bench, there was no way they were going to sit on the sidelines for 60 minutes, but the way Akle uses her bench players is a masterclass in itself. Whether it’s putting them on the court to get the job done, as a key impact player, or getting them out on court so starting players can sit back and view the game from the sidelines, the strategy works.
Jo Harten once against demonstrated her ability to perform in today’s Grand Final, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough on its own to take the win for the side in orange. Calm from the beginning, it looked like Harten was going to pick up where she left off against Fever last week, but the pressure from Klau and Turner on the super shot was ultimately too effective.
The GIANTS this season have seemed like a different team than the one we saw last year, and Jo Harten’s leadership continues to help this side grow. Her relationship with Julie Fitzgerald has clearly helped her build into a confident leader, and this translates on court with the way she works with 19-year-old Dwyer under the post.
As a fairly neutral fan, I didn’t have much of a stake in which team won today, but I realised at the final whistle I would have loved to see Jo Harten lift the trophy.
You can’t talk about key players in the GIANTS team without mentioning Amy Parmenter and it’s no surprise that she took the Wing Defence spot in the Nissan Net Points Team of the Year. It was a strong start for Parmenter, as she helped force Hadley into contact penalties and a held ball during the early stages of the game.
Picking up two intercepts and four gains wasn’t enough though, and the GIANTS Wing Defence was the most heavily penalised player on court with 16 penalties. The introduction of Nat Haythornthwaite into Wing Attack for the Swifts in quarter two switched up their game, and saw the ball move into Housby and Wallace with a bit more ease.
Similar to Maddy Turner, a lot of Parmenter’s impact comes off the ball, and she’s certainly a shining example of how teams can benefit from keeping a specialist Wing Defence. Her reliability on court is a huge part of GIANTS’ game, and she is fantastic at knowing where to be to back up her teammates on and off the ball.
It was a tough game for Sam Poolman this week. After what could arguably be her game of the season against Jhaniele Fowler last week, there was always going to be a level of expectation on her shoulders coming up against Sam Wallace in the Grand Final. Although I think the GIANTS Goal Keeper would be disappointed with her performance in this game, I think it’s worth mentioning how far her game has come over the past couple of seasons.
Poolman, and the wider GIANTS team, seem to have finally addressed the physicality that used to be such a focus of their style of play. It always felt a bit unnecessary, and now we’re able to see the players showcase their skills without the contact becoming the focus of the game. With three gains and two defensive rebounds, it wasn’t her best game on the stat sheet, but she did manage to pick up just nine penalties across four quarters, which I think demonstrates how much her game has developed over the past couple of seasons.
Categories: Suncorp Super Netball