Aussie contests prove to be crowd fillers

Netball NSW Media - 2014 ANZ Championship - Rd 12 v Thunderbirds - Susan Pratley goes to goal - SMP Images

It was an historic day for Australian netball on Sunday with more than 18 thousand fans watching two ANZ Championship matches in the country’s two largest cities.

At Sydney’s AllPhones Arena a new ANZ Championship regular season record crowd of 10,118 watched the NSW Swifts move a step closer to securing its first finals appearance since 2011 with a 45-42 win over the gallant Adelaide Thunderbirds.

That easily broke the previous record of 8509, set when the Melbourne Vixens hosted the West Coast Fever in the final round of last season.

The Vixens and Fever attracted a crowd of 8020 on Sunday who saw the Melbourne side consolidate top spot on the ladder with a 65-46 victory heading into the last fortnight of the regular season.

In Sydney, the Swifts got away to a strong start and led by 10 goals at quarter-time and then withstood a spirited fightback from the reigning champions.

The Thunderbirds had closed to within two goals by the main break and then drew level with the Swifts late in the final term before the home side edged clear to record a hard-fought win.

Against her former premiership teammates, Swifts defender Sharni Layton was excellent in partnership with Sonia Mkoloma while Emily Beaton and Renae Hallinan battled hard for Adelaide.

Swifts captain Kimberlee Green said she was relieved to come away with the win.

“We knew the Thunderbirds would go the whole way with us — it was a great game by them,” Green said.

“They are a quality team. We knew we had to push them all the way down the court and would eventually get one or two tips.”

Hallinan said the first quarter proved costly.

“Probably in the first couple of minutes the Swifts wanted it more and got the jump on us. But really happy that we were able to come back, probably could have had the game, there was just a few critical moments where Swifts got on top of us,” Hallinan said.

_MCA0263LiVixens goal attack Tegan Caldwell shot an equal career-high of 37 goals in her first hit-out since being named in Australia’s Commonwealth Games team.

Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said she was pleased to see how her team responded coming off the bye last round.

“I think it’s always a danger game (coming off the bye) because coming back to that intensity can take you by surprise,” McKinnis said.

“Ultimately, we did push on throughout the game.”

The Vixens travel to Adelaide this weekend to take on the Thunderbirds, the Fever head to New Zealand to meet the Northern Mystics while the Swifts are at home against the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.

The Queensland Firebirds had the bye on the weekend and face the Central Pulse at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre this Saturday in a match crucial to the Finals prospects of both teams.

Feature picture and main image: Courtesy of SMP Images