NSW Swifts have secured their first trans-Tasman netball competition semi-final spot with a 55-43 win over Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
Former NSW Swifts coach Julie Fitzgerald labelled her old club the form team of the trans-Tasman netball competition, after her apprentice enjoyed a 55-43 win over her Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side.
Swifts wrapped up their first semi-final spot since 2011 with a fifth straight win, their longest victory streak since a six-match run in 2012.
The victory on Sunday meant Swifts coach Rob Wright, who spent two years as an assistant to Fitzgerald, steered the franchise to a semi-final spot in his first season in charge.
NSW are just behind ladder leader Melbourne on percentage going into next week’s final round.
The result left Magic two points behind Vixens and Swifts and level with Queensland, who they host next week.
The defeat was their third in their past four games, their biggest losing margin of the season and their lowest score of the campaign.
It all added up to a disappointing return for Fitzgerald, who led Swifts to the inaugural trans-Tasman title in 2008.
She received a warm ovation from the Swifts crowd, at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, but there wasn’t much cheer for her after that.
Swifts led 6-2 early, but Magic trailed by just one at the first break and widened the gap to five at halftime and 11 by the final change.
Swifts shooters Susan Pratley (30/38) and Caitlin Thwaites (25/31) made the most of good feeding, especially from skipper Kimberlee Green, and made sure their team capitalised on errors from the Magic.
“I felt we made silly errors, we kept giving them the ball back,” said Fitzgerald, who was touched by the reception she got.
Swifts coach Rob Wright, who said he was fortunate to spend time being mentored by Fitzgerald, was happy with the pressure applied by his side.
“I thought our shooters in particular, and especially Pratley today, were outstanding against an amazing defence end, possibly the Silver Ferns starting lineup,” he said.
Fitzgerald was impressed by the form of her old club.
“I think they are the form side of the competition, they are playing very very well and they make very few errors,” Fitzgerald said.
“They have very few weaknesses and they are scoring well. They are a real force to be reckoned with.”
Wright was happy to pass the mantle of favouritism elsewhere.
“I think we’re certainly building our form, although looking at Firebirds and Vixens, I think both of them look red-hot at the moment,” Wright said.
“I think you’d have to say on form those two teams probably are the two favourites for the competition.”