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The NSW Swifts have maintained last year’s premiership-winning form to claim netball’s pre-season cup in Sydney.
The Swifts stormed through the three-day round robin tournament undefeated and held New Zealand’s Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic to a 49-all draw in their last game, which doubled as a grand final rematch.
The draw meant NSW had a nervous wait to claim the $10,000 prize money and the winners’ trophy.
Finishing on 12 points, the reigning premiers watched on from the grandstand for the result of the final match of the tournament between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the Melbourne Vixens.
Adelaide, who were without star defender Mo’onia Gerrard, overcame the Vixens 65-49 to join the Swifts on top of the table.
But NSW were declared champions on a far superior goal difference, with the Thunderbirds finishing runners-up and the Vixens third.
Swifts captain Catherine Cox was delighted to pick up the silverware and said the cash would be put towards team massages for the ANZ Championship season.
“It’s great to have the money, the win certainly doesn’t mean a great deal, we’re not getting overly excited about that because pre-season is about trialling combinations,” said Cox, who shot 26 goals at 86 per cent against the Magic.
“I don’t think anyone was out too much trying to win it, it certainly wasn’t our goal when it started but it’s very nice to pick up $10,000.”
Coach Julie Fitzgerald gave the nod to Kimberley Smith to fill retired defender Selina Gilsenan’s old position at wing defence but she struggled early trying to shut down Silver Ferns star midcourter Laura Langman.
Fitzgerald replaced Smith (nee Purcell) with newcomer Samantha May and was impressed with the 22-year-old’s debut.
“I think Sam’s had a great weekend and I think she’s a really promising talent going forward,” Fitzgerald said.
Asked if May would feature in round one of the ANZ Championship, Fitzgerald wasn’t giving much away.
“We have no idea who is going to be in the starting side come round one,” she said with a big grin.
The Thunderbirds will head into the the regular season full of confidence after their comprehensive victory over the Vixens.
They also welcomed back former Australian representative Laura von Bertouch.
After a year out of the game, the former captain didn’t skip a beat, feeding great ball into the shooters and showing the blistering court speed she is renowned for.
In the day’s other match, former Swifts reserve shooter Leah Shoard starred in the second half for New Zealand’s Southern Steel, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the new-look West Coast Fever who won 48-41 thanks to the sharp-shooting Kate Beveridge.