Coach challenges Swifts to lift: ‘I want us to make a statement’

The Sydney Morning Herald Sports 3 weeks ago

NSW Swifts coach coach Briony Akle doesn't want her side to be a 'flash in the pan' as they try to defend their Super Netball crown, beginning with a grand final rematch against the Sunshine Coast Lightning at their new home of Ken Rosewall Arena.

The opener on May 3 will be one of seven home fixtures at the venue, which has undergone a $55m renovation, with the local derby against the Giants on June 6 another standout date on the Super Netball draw, which was released on Friday.

Sam Wallace celebrates the Swifts grand final triumph over the Lightning.

The Swifts and they will now be the ones with the target on their back. Akle wants them to aim up under the pressure and prove they can sustain that excellence across multiple seasons.

"For us it’s about backing up. Nobody gave us a chance last year and we won the whole thing. I knew we were good enough but it’s about proving to doubters it wasn’t a flash in the pan," Akle said.

"We had plenty of epic battles with the Lightning last year and having the current top two teams in the league playing the first game at Sydney’s newest indoor venue is pretty special.

"I know the Lightning will feel like they owe us one after the grand final but given we dropped three games to them last year, we won’t be short of motivation either."

It will be the first Super Netball clash at Ken Rosewall Arena and Akle wanted her outfit to start with some serious intent against one of their arch-rivals in the league.

"Given there are two Super Netball teams based in Sydney, it’s pretty special to have the honour of playing there first and I want us to make a statement. The Swifts team and brand have been at the forefront of netball for 22 years in Sydney and New South Wales and I think it’s fitting a reward to have a new 10,000-seater home."

The Swifts will also host the Firebirds (round three), Melbourne Vixens (round five), the Giants (round six), West Coast and Collingwood (rounds nine and 10) and the Thunderbirds in the penultimate game of the season on August 2.

The Giants will share Ken Rosewall Arena with the Swifts but don't get their home opener until round three when they host Melbourne Vixens. They take a home game to Canberra in round five against the Firebirds before returning home to welcome the Lightning in round seven.

Their home derby game against the Swifts doesn't arrive until round 12 but they finish the 14-round regular season at home a fortnight later with hosting duties against the Fever.

There will be a three-week finals series, which will be contested by the top four teams. The major and minor semi-finals will take place on August 15-16, with the preliminary final on Sunday, August 23. The grand final will take place on Sunday, August 30.


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