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Super Netball: Swifts defeat Firebirds 54-53

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The NSW Swifts have a new hero, and her name is Sophie Garbin. A former Australian under-21 player, the new recruit stroked home the match-winner in the Swifts heart-stopping 54-53 Suncorp Super Netball win over the Queensland Firebirds at Qudos Bank Arena.

 

Trailing by eight goals late in the third quarter, the Swifts were staring down the barrel of a heavy loss. But they responded in emphatic fashion to go on an 11-4 run in the final term to erase that deficit and set up a two goal advantage.

And that was largely built on the efforts of debutant Garbin (18/19 goals at 95 percent accuracy), who claimed the Nissan Player of the Match honour.

"That was pretty amazing, it felt like a scene from Grace on Court, the book by Maddy Proud," Garbin said.

"I was just focused on our team ... as the game got longer, we got stronger."

After winning the 2015 and 2016 ANZ Championships, the Firebirds missed the finals of the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season - finishing in fifth position. That provided their fire in this match, while the Swifts players were still left burning from the resignation of coach Rob Wright last year.

The Swifts took to the court with Samantha Wallace, Helen Housby, Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud, Abbey McCulloch, Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau.

The Firebirds welcomed back defender Laura Geitz, who took last season off following the birth of her first child Barney, with the veteran joining goal-shooting ace Romelda Aiken, Commonwealth Games star Gabi Simpson as well as Gretel Tippett, Caitlyn Nevins, Mahalia Cassidy and debutant Tara Hinchliffe in the starting lineup.

The old rivals opened with their traditional intensity, and nothing could separate them after five minutes of play with the scores locked at 4-4. A four goal run from Housby, though, gave the Swifts the early ascendency - opening up a 9-6 advantage.

A perfectly executed intercept from Geitz highlighted how important her return will be for the Firebirds, who levelled the ledger up with three minutes left in the term.

You could hear a pin drop in Qudos Bank Arena when the visiting Firebirds opened up a 15-12 lead at the end of the quarter, securing a valuable bonus point in the process.

The Swifts grafted their way back into the match, only trailing by two goals midway through the second quarter. But in the blink of an eye the Firebirds were out by four again and the Swifts took a much-needed timeout.

The defensive pressure from Queensland continued to reap turnovers, and the visitors extended the lead to 27-20.

The Swifts shooting clip dropped to as low as 71 per cent, which played a big role in the Firebirds taking a 29-23 lead into the halftime break.

Confidence was oozing from every corner of the court for the Firebirds, with Aitken and Tippett making hay as the visitors pressed their advantage to 34-26 in the third quarter.

The Swifts upped their defensive intensity, slashing the lead back to just three goals at one point and claiming the bonus point for winning the quarter. But it was the Firebirds who entered the final term leading 42-37.

The Swifts showed that almost no lead is unassailable in this league, though, putting their best netball on the court in the final quarter to claim the thrilling win.

The Swifts will next meet the Melbourne Vixens at 3pm local time, May 6 at Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.

The Firebirds return home to take on the Sunshine Coast Lightning at 1pm local time, May 6 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Official Result: NSW Swifts 54 defeated Queensland Firebirds 53

Firebirds shooting statistics

Romelda Aiken 45/51 (88%)

Gretel Tippett 8/11 (73%)

Lightning shooting statistics

Sam Wallace 12/17 (71%)

Helen Housby 24/31 (77%)

Sophie Garbin 18/19 (95%)

Firebirds starting seven - GS: Romelda Aiken, GA: Gretel Tippett, WA: Caitlyn Nevins, C: Mahalia Cassidy, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: Tara Hinchliffe, GK: Laura Geitz

Lightning starting seven - GS: Sam Wallace, GA: Helen Housby, WA: Paige Hadley, C: Maddy Proud, WD: Abbey McCulloch, GD: Maddy Turner, GK: Sarah Klau

Nissan Player of the Match: Sophie Garbin (Swifts)