The Sydney Morning Herald: Australian Conference final Swifts v Firebirds: Abbey McCulloch’s State of Origin

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 14, 2016

Online: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/australian-conference-final-swifts-v-firebirds-abbey-mccullochs-state-of-origin-20160712-gq3xpz.html

Blue through and through: Swifts defender Abbey McCulloch.

Abbey McCulloch may have begun her elite netball career with the Firebirds, but on Monday she’ll play off against old teammates as a true blue Swift.

Monday’s Australian Conference final against the Firebirds will be a bit of deja vu for McCulloch, who suffered the Swift’s last minute loss to the team in last year’s grand final, but she said this time they would “get the job done”.

“I think, obviously growing up in NSW, we’ve always had quite a large rivalry with Queensland, and Victorian teams as well, because we want to rule the east coast,” she said.

“I’ve got some good friends up in the Firebirds team so it’s always nice to get one over on your friends as well.”

McCulloch said the Swifts’ biggest advantage in the Conference final will be the experience of some of the team’s key players, including former Diamonds’ player Kim Green, ANZ Championship veteran Susan Pettitt and Commonwealth Games gold medal holder Sharni Layton.

“We’ve got a number of key players in our team who have been around the traps for a really long time, they’ve got the experience, the years and the netball games under their belt, so that will definitely help us, especially because we’ve got quite a few rookies in the team.”

McCulloch said she couldn’t fault the Firebirds, but the Swifts beat them in May and she knew they could do it again using the same tactics.

“I think the biggest difference for us between that game in May and how we’ve played before or since is that we played for 60 minutes,” she said.

“We’ve had a couple of lapses and we haven’t been that consistent across the full four quarters in the past few rounds, so that’s something we’ll definitely be addressing over the next few days.”

The Firebirds will have the home advantage for the Conference final at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, but McCulloch said the Swifts would beat the crowd with mind over matter.

“We’ll go into the game on Monday just thinking that they’re cheering for us, and they’ll have a big crowd there so, if we go in with that mindset, we’ll be OK,” she said.

“When I was playing for the Firebirds up there and the Origin did roll around for rugby league, I always cheered for NSW. I’m born and bred here, so I’ll always be a NSW girl.”

This year, the Swifts go into the Australian Conference Final on a high from their 67-53 win over the Melbourne Vixens on Sunday.

The results of Monday’s final will determine what New Zealand team each side will face in the semi-finals, before the ANZ Championship grand final decider.

“We get through Monday, then we look forward to the grand final,” McCulloch said.

“Fingers crossed, but I think we’ve got the goods to get it done. To win the last ever ANZ Championship will be the icing on the cake for us.”

Australian Conference finals: NSW Swifts v QLD Firebirds at Brisbane Entertainment Centre, 7:18pm (doors open 6pm)

Tickets available from Ticketek.

 

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