The New South Wales Swifts have upset two-time premiers Sunshine Coast Lightning to win the Super Netball grand final 64-47 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Sunday.
With Sarah Klau driving the Swifts forward and Trinidadian shooter Sam Wallace in fine form, the underdogs established an early break and held off several Lightning fightbacks to secure their first Super Netball flag.
The third quarter was key, with Lightning getting back into the game before a Swifts blitz in the final minutes saw them take a 10-goal lead into the last quarter.
Lightning went into the final on a nine-game winning streak, which itself was off the back of striking twice for titles in 2017 and 2018.
Swifts Paige Hadley, who came back from her own run of bad form, told Channel Nine it was an amazing achievement after 11 years without the club winning a title.
“I’m just so, so proud of these girls,” Hadley said. “We came out all year and we said that we could do this and here we are.”
Lightning’s goal attack Stephanie Wood had a poor game and was emotional afterwards, saying her team had just had an off day.
“When it rains it pours. The Swifts put out a brilliant performance and we weren’t up to it,” Wood said.
“I was probably more nervous today than previously had been.
“We did everything we could in the lead up. Just wasn’t our day.”
It was an empty farewell for Sunshine Coast’s founding coach Noeline Taurua, whose tenure at the expansion club is also over.
The defeat may also be the final act in Australia’s national league for off-contract Lightning star Laura Langman, who has yet to declare her plans for 2020.
Klau started the premiership surge with a whopping 11 gains and five intercepts while the polish was added by goal shooter Wallace, who finished with 40 goals from 44 attempts.
Diamonds defender Klau and her defensive partner Maddy Turner never allowed Lightning to click in attack, and their teammates were just as disciplined.
The Swifts landed the first blow of the day when they forced one of Lightning’s prime movers Wood to the bench before quarter-time.
Wood, a mainstay in the national team and a leader for her club side, couldn’t make an impact under immense pressure from Swifts defenders Klau and Turner.
The balance of power hinged on an epic duel between centres Langman and Hadley.
They pursued each other from one end of the court to the other like angry swallows.
Swifts captain Hadley had the edge for much of the first half and that was reflected on the scoreboard when her team stretched its lead to eight goals at the break.
The demands of running with the world’s best player took a toll on Hadley as Lightning skipper Langman hauled her side back into the contest in the third quarter.
Yet, as hard as Langman ran, she couldn’t will her side any closer on the scoreboard.