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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Swifts stun Fever, reach Super Netball grand final against Thunderbirds

With Dan Crouch

Swifts players Sophie Fawns and Verity Simmons secure possession during their win to earn a Grand Final berth. Picture: Bianca De Marchi.

The NSW Swifts will face the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the 2023 Super Netball grand final after a clutch shooting display from young gun Sophie Fawns fuelled a dramatic 65-64 comeback victory over West Coast Fever in the preliminary final.

Trailing by seven goals in the third quarter, the Swifts outscored West Coast 19-13 in the fourth term to spark wild scenes at Sydney's Ken Rosewall Arena as they ended the Fever's quest for back-to-back titles.

The Fever were poised to knock NSW out of the finals in straight sets after holding the advantage for the majority of the game until Fawns handed the Swifts their first lead since the opening quarter after draining her seventh Super shot with less than two minutes to play.

Fawns' long-range accuracy on the super shots played a dramatic part in the Swifts' win. The Fever dominated the stat sheet, posting advantages in goals (+15), intercepts (+4), rebounds (+5), penalties (-28), and turnovers (-1) but the Swifts' advantage in the super shots (+8) was the only stat they needed to win to claim victory.

Jhaniele Fowler quickly levelled the scores at 64-64 but the Swifts cooly controlled their final possession to allow Fawns to sink the game-winner with three seconds left on the clock and book their place in next Saturday's grand final at Melbourne's John Cain Arena.

19-year-old Sophie Fawns was the star of the show and she was is "ecstatic" to be playing in her first grand final.

"I feel absolutely over the moon, ecstatic, my first grand final. I think I couldn't ask for a better team to do it with, I'm just elated."

NSW coach Briony Akle praised Fawns for bouncing back from some rough moments in the Adelaide loss while crediting the full squad for their role in the victory.

"What (Fawns) had around her was really experienced players that were so controlled, especially that last 30 seconds," Akle said.

"So to have the teammates she's got around her, to boost her up and keep telling her to take the shots, is just awesome."

Akle has now guided the Swifts to their third grand final in the past five seasons. After missing their chance to qualify for the grand final in last week's heartbreaking one-goal extra-time loss to the Thunderbirds, the Swifts stood up when it counted with Sarah Klau producing three gains in the final term to give her side the chance to reel in West Coast's lead.

"Obviously, last week we were extremely disappointed so we had a lot to prove and (the Fever) are a quality side so we knew we had to bring our best," Klau said.

Fowler's prolific shooting and Courtney Bruce's command of the defensive end helped the Fever race out to a six-goal lead in the second quarter but a string of errors opened the door for the Swifts as Helen Housby and Fawns combined to reduce West Coast's buffer to 35-33 at the main break.

Fowler completed her 150th national league game with another outstanding shooting display (54 goals at 96 per cent accuracy) but the reigning champions could not capitalise on a massive 17-6 advantage in gains with 11 unforced errors returning to haunt them in the finish.


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