NSW Swifts coach Rob Wright says his side will return stronger next season after seeing their trans-Tasman netball championship title charge end with a heart-breaking last-second defeat against Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
The Swifts held a six-point margin in Sunday’s second quarter but the only New Zealand side in the finals series lifted during a thrilling final period to win their minor semi-final 50-49.
English goal shooter Jo Harten completed an impressive match (28 goals from 35 attempts) by netting from close range with the last shot of the game after the two sides had gone point-for-point over the closing stages.
“After not being in the semis for the past few years, sometimes you have to get back there first,” said Wright.
“At the start of the season if you said we will make the four I would have taken that.
“We will build on this. You learn a lot when you lose and we will learn a lot out of this as well.”
The Sydney-based Swifts, who won 55-43 against the same opponent just a fortnight ago, seemed to be cruising to victory after holding a 28-24 half-time lead.
The Swifts recovered from an early two-goal deficit to lead 14-12 at the first break following a high-tempo opening, and they still seemed likely victors at the final interval with a 40-38 lead.
The Swifts’ attacking duo Susan Pratley (24/27) and Caitlin Thwaites (25/29) proved more decisive at the net with the pair missing just seven of their goal attempts, while the New Zealand side missed a total of 11 scoring attempts.
It was a disappointing end to the season for the Swifts, who could have wrapped up first but for an unexpected defeat against the Northern Mystics last weekend in the final round of the regular season.
“We didn’t come up with enough ball today but you can learn from that,” said Wright.
“We were probably just a little too patchy at times. But I think it is more of a case of credit going to them (Magic).”
The Magic now await the outcome of Monday’s major semi-final when the Melbourne Vixens host the Queensland Firebirds with grand final hosting rights on the line.
Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald, a former Swifts coach, said her side will be underdogs in next week’s preliminary final.
“Just making the finals is a bonus in a lot of peoples’ eyes,” she said.
“I think we have to say we are outsiders next week as we were today. This team is still learning big-game mentality.”