The NSW Swifts and Melbourne Vixens have produced a fitting climax to the ANZ Championship Pre-Season Summer Shootout in Sydney.
Considered by many as two of leading ANZ Championship title contenders in 2015, the Swifts denied the Vixens a clean sweep of their pre-season tournament campaign winning an entertaining contest 49-46 at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
It was played in a finals-like atmosphere and – at times – a finals-like intensity to suggest their two regular season meetings will be contests not to miss.
The three-goal result meant that both the Swifts and Vixens finished the weekend with four wins and a loss each.
However, West Coast Fever took bragging rights from the Summer Shootout, going through the three days undefeated from their five outings in an encouraging sign for the upcoming season.
The Vixens started with six of their premiership-winning combination on court and got away to a flying start with Karyn Bailey and youngster Alice Teague-Neeld – who was in at goal attack for the absent Tegan Caldwell – on target.
The pair shot at 100 per cent for the term as the Vixens led by five goals at quarter time.
Despite making wholesale changes to their line-up, were able to stretch that advantage to as much as eight goals early in the second term before the Swifts rallied to close the gap to 29-26 at the main break.
The Swifts brought in teenager Amy Parmenter as a replacement player for captain Kimberlee Green for the match and she slotted into their midcourt nicely.
The home side continued with their momentum in the third term, inspired by some great defensive work by Sharni Layton and midcourter Paige Hadley.
Former Vixen Erin Hoare came in the goal circle for the Swifts against her old side and immediately found her range and worked efficiently with Susan Pettit (nee Pratley) as they, firstly, levelled the scores and then took the lead heading into the final term.
The Vixens briefly regained their advantage through Carla Dziwoki – also playing against her former team for the first time – but the Swifts were determined not to disappoint the crowd of about two thousand that packed into the venue.
Micaela Wilson, another former Vixens, also did some nice work in the Swifts defensive goal circle in the last term.
Layton said the Swifts were delighted by what they achieved out of the weekend.
“We had so many combinations out there today – as did the Vixens - and you want to be successful no matter who’s out there because we want to show that we believe in our 12 and we did that today,” Layton said.
She also praised the crowd for helping to lift the Swifts in the second half.
“It was really exciting (and) being a fan day as well for us,’ Layton said.
“Anytime I step out into this stadium and have a crowd behind us that helps lift the atmosphere completely. In the warm-up we couldn’t even hear each other and you wouldn’t have even known it was a practice match.”
Earlier in session four played inside Netball Central, a final quarter blitz was the difference between the Fever and Mojo Pulse as West Coast powered away to a 52-41 victory.
Close matches was the theme of the final day of play of what has been an action-packed weekend of netball.
The Mission Queensland Firebirds survived a spirited second half fightback from the Adelaide Thunderbirds to record a 46-44 victory.
In a high-scoring match, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel claimed its second victory of the weekend with a 62-60 win over the Kia Magic while the Tactix also finished their tournament on a high after upstaging the SKYCITY Mystics 55-50.
The 2015 ANZ Championship season gets underway on Saturday 28 February with the Thunderbirds hosting the Magic at Adelaide’s Netball SA Stadium.
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