Super Netball 2022: NSW Swifts to embrace pressure as they hunt back-to-back titles

Maddy Proud insists NSW Swifts are ready for the pressure of being favourites to defend their Super Netball title — unlike their ill-fated premiership defence of two years ago.

NSW Swifts captain Maddy Proud says the defending premiers will embrace the pressure that comes with having a target on its backr.

Proud, who with co-captain Paige Hadley lifted the Super Netball trophy last year, said failing to deal with the label was a mistake the Swifts had made coming off their 2019 premiership.

“I think you probably can’t go and win two premierships in three years and not have that title (as the hunted side), but it’s something that we need to embrace,” Proud said.

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Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley celebrate last year’s title success.
Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley celebrate last year’s title success.

“I think that’s an error we made in 2020 coming off that 2019 win and we tried to do things the same.

“We talked about the idea of being hunted and I just don’t think we executed things as well as we could have and either rested on our laurels or tried to repeat the same things over and over again.”

The Swifts broke through for their maiden premiership in the Super Netball era and first in more than a decade in 2019 and while they made the finals the following year, they were knocked out in the opening playoff.

But they regrouped in 2021, securing an emotional grand final win in an all-NSW decider despite being on the road for more than 10 weeks as the league raced around the nation in an attempt to keep one step ahead of Covid outbreaks and state-based lockdowns.

The Swifts have won the Super Netball title twice in the past three years.
The Swifts have won the Super Netball title twice in the past three years.

“It’s just about reinvention and knowing what does work but also knowing that we’ve got to push our boundaries and what worked for us in 2021 isn’t necessarily going to work for us in 2022,” Proud said.

“Briony (Akle) is an incredible coach, she’s always wanting to push us and help us play in different ways and also deal with things off-court in different ways as well.

“In the current climate it’s not always the team that can perform the best on the day, it’s the team that can deal with everything off the court the best as well.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we leave no stone unturned and prepare as best we can in every single facet of the game.

“I think we embrace that title and we’ve earnt the right to be the hunted and we enjoy it rather than being scared of it.”

Coach Briony Akle is a key to getting her troops fit and firing. Photo: Getty Images
Coach Briony Akle is a key to getting her troops fit and firing. Photo: Getty Images

Proud, too, is out to show her best this year, starting at the pre-season Team Girls Cup in Melbourne this weekend.

A member of the wider Diamonds squad, the midcourt ace wasn’t selected in Stacey Marinkovich’s team for the Quad Series in England last month but hasn’t given up hope of forcing her way into the team for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this year.

“To say that to play for your country isn’t a dream or something that you’re not really conscious of would be a lie,” Proud said.

“For me to put on that green and gold is something that I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl ... and it’s something that I will always strive for.

Maddy Proud hasn’t given up on selection for the Diamonds.
Maddy Proud hasn’t given up on selection for the Diamonds.

“But my mantra’s always been on focusing on the Swifts season and the SSN (Super Netball) season and the rest takes care of itself.

“I just love this team and I think the things that we’ve been able to do over the last few years have been pretty incredible, especially given the circumstances we’ve had.”

And she says there’s no reason they can’t go back-to-back.

“That’s my number one priority and if other accolades come along, then that’s great.

“But if the only thing I get this season is another Swifts premiership then I’ll be very, very happy.”

Vixens superstar back in the fold in specialist role

Less than two years after she helped lead the Melbourne Vixens to an emotional premiership in the final game of her professional career, Caitlin Thwaites has returned to the Super Netball club to help guide the next generation of shooters.

Thwaites, Netball Victoria Hall of Famer Susan Meaney and inaugural Vixens squad member Johannah Munro have joined the club as specialists to support head coach Simone McKinnis and assistant Di Honey.

The addition of Thwaites is a boon for the Vixens, who have rising stars Rahni Samason and Ruby Barkmeyer on their books, as well as international shooters Kiera Austin and Mwai Kumwenda.

Caitlin Thwaites (right) and Vixens teammate Tegan Philip celebrate victory after the 2020 Super Netball Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images
Caitlin Thwaites (right) and Vixens teammate Tegan Philip celebrate victory after the 2020 Super Netball Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images

Thwaites, who was part of the coaching set-up at the Australian U17 and U19 camps last year, was excited at the prospect of working with the group.

“I think I can really add some value to the club in that coaching role,” Thwaites said.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of it again and try and impart some of my knowledge and wisdom.”

Meaney will continue the role she has held for the past two years as specialist midcourt coach, while Munro will work with the defensive players.

McKinnis said each of the specialists brought something different to the table.

The presence of Thwaites will be a boon for players like Rahni Samason, who has joined the full-time Vixens squad this year after breakout performances in 2021. Picture: Getty Images
The presence of Thwaites will be a boon for players like Rahni Samason, who has joined the full-time Vixens squad this year after breakout performances in 2021. Picture: Getty Images

“It’s terrific to have coaches of this calibre working with our squad,” McKinnis said.

“The breadth of experience and the quality of the insight and support Caity, Susan and Joh bring to the Vixens environment is really important for us, both on and off the court.”

In other Super Netball news, exciting West Australian goaler Donnell Wallam has been working out with the Firebirds on a train and trial deal, with her place in the wider squad still to be finalised.

Wallam was set to be a training partner with the West Coast Fever but took up the opportunity to head to the east coast to work with the Firebirds last month.

Fever have made a massive signing for their group though, adding England Roses and former Thunderbirds midcourter Chelsea Pitman as a training partner.

Chelsea Pitman, who was last tasted Super Netball action with the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2020, has been picked up by West Coast Fever as a training player. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea Pitman, who was last tasted Super Netball action with the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2020, has been picked up by West Coast Fever as a training player. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning yesterday announced the inaugural Suncorp Spirit Cup match will take place between the squads on the Gold Coast on March 5, with teams to play for the trophy in a regional Queensland centre each year.

The Super Netball premiers will take to the court with a strip that reflects the history of netball in NSW as well as Swifts organisation this season, with the state floral emblem, the Waratah, etched into the pattern of the team’s dress.

The club will also have a permanent Indigenous element, with the turtle totem included in a design fashioned by Indigenous pathways player Tarsha Hawley.

Originally published as Super Netball 2022: NSW Swifts to embrace pressure as they hunt back-to-back titles

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