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Netball - 14. February 2011.

Swifts race to emphatic win in season opener of the ANZ Championships

The NSW Swifts opened their 2011 ANZ Championship campaign with a dominant 60-40 win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds, in Sydney today.

The experience of last years minor premiers was evident as they upstaged the 2010 premiers, who are rebuilding after the loss of an experienced core.

With talent and international experience to burn, Swifts made no race of todays contest, shooter Susan Pratley dining out on a faultless day under the hoop with a perfect 27 goals from 27 attempts.

With an average age of just 20, the lack of experience in their ranks told against the Thunderbirds, bedecked in their new pink playing strip for toadys outing.

The Swifts broke the early impasse with a lift in tempo and telling burst in the latter stages of the first quarter. After an even start, the home team found their groove with a strong defensive effort and accuracy under the hoop to stamp their mark.

Mo'onia Gerrard, slotting in at wing defence for the Swifts, proved strong nuisance value against her old teammates while the potent in-circle defensive duo of Rebecca Bulley and Sonia Mkoloma ensured dangerous Thunderbirds shooter Carla Borrego was well contained.

Slick and quick through court, the Swifts opened up a healthy lead with goal attack Pratley impressing with a perfect eight shots from eight attempts. The visitors struggled with their ball retention and conversion rates as the Swifts skipped out to a 15-10 first quarter lead.

It was more of the same through the second stanza as the Swifts threatened to run away with proceedings. Sharp throughout the court, the home team rattled the young Thunderbirds team, who struggled to penetrate through their attacking third and faced a growing penalty count defensively.

The Swifts defensive trio were outstanding at minimising the visitors shooting opportunities while Pratley continued to play a pivotal role under the hoop at the other end. With captain Catherine Cox acting as a provider, Pratley was in the hot seat for the Swifts but had no problems maintaining her accuracy as she converted 17 shots from 17 attempts in the first half.

Restricting the Thunderbirds to just six goals in the second quarter, it was all one-way traffic as the Swifts headed into the main break with a handy 29-16 scoreline.

A rearranged defensive line and the introduction of Bianca Giteau (nee Franklin) at goal attack helped the Thunderbirds negotiate their best quarter of the match. The Swifts introduced Courtney Tairi for Vanessa Ware, in her first game back after having knee reconstruction surgery last season while Gerrard was rested for Kimberley Smith.

It was the Swifts who were slower to settle to the changes with the Thunderbirds keeping them honest throughout the quarter. There were some sloppy passages from the home team with a rise in the turnover rate but their dominance was never in threat as they headed into the last break with an unassailable 44-28 lead.

In a sign of their depth, the Swifts managed to get 11 of their 12 on to the court today as they went on to finish with a flourish.

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