PREVIEW | 2023 SSN Grand Final: This is it
THE biggest game has finally arrived.
Tomorrow the Adelaide Thunderbirds and NSW Swifts will take to the court at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena, with one to walk away as the 2023 Super Netball champions.
Let us take a look at some of the key areas that may factor in the big game.
A NEUTRAL VENUE
In what has perhaps never happened in Australian elite netball before, this year’s Grand Final will be held in a truly neutral venue. Not even last year’s Grand Final, although with a predetermined venue, was truly neutral as the locals West Coast Fever made the decider.
Regardless, even though it is a neutral venue it has been a much happier hunting ground for the Swifts this year than it has been for the Thunderbirds.
The Swifts won their two matches at the venue this year against the Vixens and Magpies, while the Thunderbirds lost both of their encounters against the Melbourne teams in Melbourne this year.
These two have certainly played out three very different matches this season.
Back in Round 2 the game was sensationally called off at half time due to a number of factors, with the scores locked at 25 all. In round 14 though was a very different situation, as they got to play a full game and the Thunderbirds got the win after things were tied at three quarter time.
Then came the Major Semi Final, where in an extra time thriller the Thunderbirds pulled off the upset and became the first team into the decider with a nail biting win.
WILL A LACK OF GRAND FINAL EXPEREIENCE HURT THE THUNDERBIRDS?
One factor that certainly favours the Swifts is Grand Final experience. The Thunderbirds have not played in a decider since 2013, and before the Major Semi Final Matilda Garrett was the only one in the squad with any finals experience. Eleanor Cardwell does have Grand Final experience, but that was in the Netball Super League back in her native England and that is a very different competition to the SSN.
However, if the Major Semi Final proved anything it is that the Thunderbirds can keep a cool head under pressure, so perhaps the big day will not overwhelm them like many would expect.
HOW DO THE THUNDERBIRDS NAVIGATE THE SHOOTING QUEENS?
Although they have plenty of weapons all over the court, one of the Swifts’ biggest assets is their shooting circle combination. This is spearheaded by Housby, who has comfortably shot more Super Shots than anyone else in the competition this year.
Pair her with the offensive rebound queen in Romelda Aiken-George, who is so strong under the ring that she can easily pick up the rebound and go for the shot herself if Housby misses.
The Thunderbirds’ defenders are certainly going to have a lot to think about trying to neutralise both of them at the same time.
HOW DO THE SWIFTS NAVIGATE THE DEFLECTIONS/INTERCEPT QUEEN?
Speaking of the Thunderbirds’ defenders, Garrett, Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson are arguably the biggest weapon those in pink have at their disposal. Led by the deflection/intercept queen in Sterling, one thing that has really been a bit of a revelation for the Thunderbirds this year is how much more versatile they are in defence. The trio – and occasionally Hannah Petty out in wing defence – are easily able to swap around positions and still make a huge influence on the game.
The aerial ability of both Sterling and Wilson is also a huge threat for the Swifts, who have to be clever in their feeds into their shooting third.
SUPERSTITION FAVOURS THE SWIFTS
Just a fun fact to finish on, and one that will please the more superstitious Swifts fans.
In both the Netball Super League and the ANZ Premiership this year, the team that won the title back in 2021 also won the title in 2023. Guess who won the SSN title in 2021? The Swifts.