The Adelaide Thunderbirds have almost pulled off one of the shocks of the season, fighting out a breathtaking draw against the NSW Swifts.
A pair of Maria Folau misses in the dying seconds denied the improving Thunderbirds their third win of the season, after they’d led for most of the game before the Swifts came roaring back to hit the front in the final quarter.
The Thunderbirds gave the Swifts all sorts of problems early, holding the ladder leaders to only three goals in the first six minutes of the game and leading 8-3 as Folau and goal shooter Sasha Glasgow rained long bombs.
Shamera Sterling was having a field day in defence, blunting Sam Wallace’s (five goals from seven attempts) effectiveness in the air and pulling off an incredible five gains, prompting Swifts coach Briony Akle to introduce Sophie Garbin (25/29) into goal shooter late in the quarter.
But the Thunderbirds held firm to maintain their five-goal advantage into the first break, leading 14-9.
The Garbin-Helen Housby combination began to click in the second term and the Swifts started eating into the home side’s lead, cutting it to two and causing a change at the Thunderbirds, with Kelly Altman taking Hannah Petty’s place at centre.
But Sterling was again determined to have a say, adding another four gains for the quarter as the Thunderbirds pushed their lead back out to five goals by half-time.
The third quarter saw the teams trade goals for extended periods, before a late run of Swifts scores saw them slash the margin to just two goals at three-quarter time.
The Swifts hadn’t lost a final quarter all season and they weren’t about to start now. A miss from Sasha Glasgow (23/25) set up the first of two Housby (21/26) goals to tie the scores at 42-42, with Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst wasting no time in making a change, introducing Charlee Hodges (2/2) for her first Super Netball minutes of 2019.
The change proved costly for the T’Birds, as Hodges dropped one ball and was called for a held ball on another as the Swifts scored eight of nine goals in a match-turning purple patch through the middle of the quarter.
The Swifts led 48-44 before Thunderbirds restored their original goaling line-up, with the move paying dividends as they capitalised on yet another Sterling turnover to slash the margin to a solitary goal with less than three minutes to play.
Helen Housby could have iced the game with a minute left on the clock, but a rare miss from close range gave the Thunderbirds the opening they needed, and Maria Folau duly delivered, netting the equaliser.
The ball was in the Thunderbirds’ hands on their own centre pass, and they quickly found passage to Folau (26/36) again. The Kiwi superstar took one shot that missed, but earned another after the final whistle with a Swifts penalty. The odds of the veteran sharpshooter missing two mid-range attempts in a row would have been astronomical, and yet that’s what transpired, with the ball coming up short and leaving the scores locked at 51-51.
With the Swifts earning only four points from the match, it opens the door for the Sunshine Coast Lightning to make a tilt at top spot, with the Queensland side now trailing by just seven premiership points as the teams head into the long break for the World Cup.
Q1: Thunderbirds 14 v Swifts 9
Q2: Thunderbirds 15 v Swifts 15
Q3: Thunderbirds 12 v Swifts 15
Q4: Thunderbirds 10 v Swifts 12
Suncorp Super Netball Premiership Points
Thunderbirds – 3
Swifts – 4
Nissan Player of The Match – Sophie Garbin (Swifts)
Thunderbirds shooting statistics – 51/63 (81%)
Maria Folau – 26/36 (72.2%)
Sasha Glasgow – 23/25 (92%)
Charles Hodges – 2/2 (100%)
Swifts shooting statistics – 51/62 (82.3%)
Sam Wallace – 5/7 (71.4%)
Helen Housby – 21/26 (80.8%)
Sophie Garbin – 25/29 (86.2%)
Thunderbirds starting seven: GS – Sasha Glasgow, GA – Maria Folau, WA – Chelsea Pitman, C – Hannah Petty, WD – Shadine Van de Merwe, GD – Layla Guscoth, GK – Shamera Sterling
Swifts starting seven: GS – Sam Wallace, GA – Helen Housby, WA – Elle Bennetts, C – Paige Hadley, WD – Kate Eddy, GD – Maddy Turner, GK – Sarah Klau