Thunderbirds on a high after memorable win

IT was unsurprisingly hard to wipe the smile and the excitement off the faces of Eleanor Cardwell, Hannah Petty and their coach Tania Obst after their win in Saturday’s thrilling Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final.

Cardwell had extra reasons to smile, after she completed the rare feet of back to back National League titles across two different countries, having won with Manchester Thunder in her native England last year.

At times choaking back tears, she spoke of how Saturday’s win compared to last year’s win.

“Each win is incredible in its own way” she said “You’ve got a different bunch of girls each time you win.”

“This is really special, it’s been a hard road this year on and off the court, and I just think every girl has had each other’s back and it’s just incredible, and to have the win in my first year is unbelievable. It’s literally dreams.”

Obst was asked whether her Thunderbirds were shellshocked at not necessarily their own performance but at how long it took the Swifts to get going, and she said that

“I think I said after the game, I think the first half was probably the best two quarters of netball I’ve ever seen in my time as coach, so from 2019 it’s been the best two quarters that we’ve ever played,” she said.

“I just thought we were really clinical, very focused on what we were doing, executing, getting ball and rewarding the defenders with it. I knew that the Swifts would come back, they’re a classy outfit, we respect them a lot but that first half was close to perfect.”

She also spoke about what she did tactically in that first half to get such a good start.

“Whether we like it or not the Super Shot is in the game, and I think it’s taken us a little while to have the personnel to be able to execute a two point game and we also know that in defence we get a lot of ball,” she said.

“We’re also very mindful that when you’ve got Romelda who is the holding shooter versus the Sophie and a Helen together, we really needed to be ready to execute and make changes that we saw fit. We sort of did that probably from Round 14 onwards and we were ready for that one point/two point game.”  

After the Swifts targeted Georgie Horjus and the impact she can make with her playmaker abilities, Obst said that the Thunderbirds had a plan to navigate that tactic.

“We sort of had certain centre passes that we wanted to execute if George was being sort of really shut down on that line, what that looked like,” she said.

“She’s obviously a playmaker for us and it got a bit clunky at times but I felt like that when someone was sort of being smothered a bit someone else would stand up. It just changed our shape a little bit which at times we did take a little while to adjust to but I always felt like that was potentially going to happen at certain times in the game and I think while it was sort of only one turnover here or there, I still felt pretty confident that we could continue to get the ball through to goal.” 

It was a nerve racking Grand Final particularly in the dying stages, exemplified by Lucy Austin’s extra pass out of the ring in the dying stages.

Cardwell confessed that as much as that moved made everyone nervous, she trusted Austin in what she was doing.

“I don’t think she knew quite the situation and we were all yelling at her to shoot and she was like ‘nah, I’ll get one extra pass in, go a bit further out, challenge us a bit more’” said Cardwell.

“I would just trust her in, anywhere she catches that ball in the circle she’s going to put it up and she’s going to shoot it and score a goal. I’m super proud of how much she’s developed this year. She’s been unbelievable for us and I think she’s showed that especially in the latter stages of this season. She’s been fearless, and I’ve loved every second of being on court with her. She’s unbelievable.”

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