Super Netball: Swifts the captains’ pick
The Sunshine Coast Lightning have the best individual talent but the Swifts and Vixens could have the versatility across the court to go all the way.
So say the Super Netball captains who start their season three months late, all having benefited from the extra time to get “niggles” right and finetune game plans better than any season before.
All four opening round matches will be played in Brisbane this weekend, with every team relocated to Queensland, including a late shift for the two NSW outfits as COVID-19 continues to impact all sport.
Hub life has suited some, with the two Melbourne teams, who will play their opening game on Sunday before they finish quarantine, trying to make life as “normal” as possible a long way from home.
When polled this week, the skippers threw up the Lightning and Vixens as contenders, but the defending champion Swifts got the most votes as the team best placed to take the title in a season unlike any before.
“I think Swifts, they won last year and haven’t had many personnel changes so everyone will be after them as the benchmark of the season,” Adelaide Thunderbirds co-captain Hannah Petty said.
It was an opinion echoed by Firebirds skipper Gabi Simpson and Vixens co-captain Liz Watson.
“The Swifts are a team that is again carrying pretty much a similar line-up to what they had in the grand final,” Watson said.
Giants captain Jo Harten threw her support behind the Sunshine Coast outfit, two-time title winners and talent-laden and a team which gets to, mainly, stay at home.
“One of the most consistent teams is the Sunshine Coast lightning and they’ll obviously have the home-court advantage,” Harten said.
“They turn up every year and have some of the best individual talent in the league.”
Bookies have the West Coast Fever at double-figure odds to win the title, but skipper Courtney Bruce scoffed at that.
“I definitely think we are frontrunners this year,” she said.
“The extended break has helped us take another step as a team. We’ve got such a versatile 12 now anyone can step up and play their role. It’s going to be another reason we are able to run teams into the ground.”
An idea for extra time this season was benched, with games now bunched and teams extended to 12 players. The introduction of the controversial two-point super shot is another huge on-court change.
But beyond the changes, and after the “longest pre-season ever”, the eight teams are just thankful they get to play.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” said Magpies co-captain Madi Browne, back from a knee reconstruction and having endured more upheaval than most.
“But we’ve done the best we could with the restrictions we have been given.”
Swifts captain Maddy Proud said the COVID “curveball” made them appreciate playing even more.
“Everyone’s in the same boat,” she said.
“And that we get to play at all this year is a bloody great achievement by all involved.”
(all matches at Nissan Arena, Brisbane)
Saturday, August 1:
Queensland Firebirds v Sunshine Coast Lightning, 1pm
Adelaide Thunderbirds v West Coast Fever, 3pm
Sunday August 2:
Giants v NSW Swifts, 1pm
Melbourne Vixens v Collingwood Magpies, 5.30pm