Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 18, 2016
The Swifts’ star players are marking the end of an era as the last days of the ANZ Championships approach, and they plan to go out with a bang.
Captain Kim Green and defender Sharni Layton have been part of the ANZ competition since it started in 2008, and attacker Paige Hadley is hungry for the win after last year’s devastating grand final loss.
“My sole goal this year is to win,” said Hadley.
“Coming off the loss against the Firebirds last year, being within a minute or so of winning the title, you can nearly taste it.”
Hadley said it was back to the drawing board for her game in the 2016 season, but she believed the Swifts’ versatility could dominate in the next few weeks of finals.
“It’s awesome, people play multiple positions where they’re needed, so I think that’s a real asset for us,” she said.
“I’ve never won an ANZ title, so I definitely want to win one before the competition ends.”
Green is the only player on this year’s roster to have experienced the Swifts’ ANZ win back in 2008.
Green plans to farewell the series in the same way she started it, by taking home the trophy, but she admits the Swifts have a challenging few games ahead.
Heading into Monday’s match against the Firebirds, Green said the main focus had been on giving the four quarters their 100 per cent.
“We know that we need to put out a full 60 minutes, and I know that’s very cliche, but that’s exactly what happened to us in last year’s grand final,” she said.
“We learnt that we can’t play 57 minutes of a game then expect to win.”
If the Swifts beat the Firebirds at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, they’ll be crowned Australian Conference champions and will host the semi-final round against New Zealand on their home court.
“In terms of our training sessions, we go hell for leather out on court against each other because everyone’s vying for a position,” she said.
“No one’s sitting on the sideline going ‘I’m just going to be on the bench this week’, everyone’s pushing and that’s the best thing about our team.”
Green, a former Diamond, retired from internationals when she joined the comp in 2016.
After this season, she said she had no plans of slowing down, and her drive to compete professionally was higher than ever.
“I feel like this year I’ve played the best netball that I ever have in my whole career,” she said.
“To think that is on the back of a little bit of a break is really exciting for me. I have no plans of retiring any time soon.”
If the Swifts make it into the grand final, it will be Layton’s 100th ANZ Championship game.
The defender said the Firebird’s attacking end would be the biggest challenge for the Swifts on Monday night.
“Romelda [Aiken] is not as stationary as what she used to be, so that’s a real challenge because no other team is like that with a tall goal attack as well as a tall goal shooter,” she said.
“At the end of the day, they can throw absolutely anything out on us. They’re a phenomenal team, they’ve proven it and played great all year, so we’ll just be concentrating on what we can do to minimise them as much as possible.”
Layton was determined to win, but she said that even a finals loss couldn’t undermine what she’d gained.
“It’s the last year of the ANZ Championship,” she said. “It’s not going to be here next year.
“I just want to soak up every single moment I can with this group of girls because, if you’re not in the moment, you’re not going to win anyway.”
Australian Conference finals: NSW Swifts v QLD Firebirds at Brisbane Entertainment Centre, 7:18pm.