New season: Team captains Collingwood Magpies’ Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens’ Kate Maloney, Giants Netball’s Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts’ Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Erin Bell and West Coast Fever’s Nat Medhurst. Photo: James Brickwood Suncorp Super Netball season launch. Photograph of the teams captains. LtoR Collingwood Magpies – Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning – Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens – Kate Maloney, Giants Netball – Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds – Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds – Erin Bell and West Coast Fever – Nat Medhurst. Photographed at The Rocks, Sydney. Wednesday 15th February 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH SPORT 170215 Photo: James Brickwood
Netball NSW will consider moving future derby games between the Swifts and Giants to the Qudos Bank Arena, with Saturday’s season-opener between the two clubs expected to sell out the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
The brand new Suncorp Super Netball competition was launched at Sydney’s picturesque Hickson Road Reserve on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Giants-Swifts clash, which will christen the eagerly anticipated eight-team competition.
Giants captain Kimberlee??? Green and recently returned Australian Diamond Susan Pettitt will run out against their old club for the first time after switching from the Swifts in the off-season to play under former coach Julie Fitzgerald.
The intriguing contest between the heavily favoured competition newcomer and the rebuilt Swifts should have no trouble filling the 4000-capacity Sydney Olympic Sports Park Centre, with only limited tickets left for sale as of Wednesday afternoon.
Down the road the Qudos Bank Arena can house 17,500 for a netball game, but the cost of hiring the facility is roughly four times as much as the venue chosen for round one. Netball NSW will use the venue three times throughout the season to house double-headers.
“It was just too big a risk to take for the first game but gee whiz what a response [to ticket sales] we’ve had and I’m happy to say that in the future we will certainly look at options around that,” Netball NSW chief executive Carolyn Campbell said.
“Qudos Bank Arena with 8000-plus in it is a good atmosphere and venue, but the cost of it is the critical factor to be considered so you want to be very sure before you take it there.
“I believe we’ve taken a really big leap of faith and a good business judgment to take three double headers to that venue.”
The first of those is next weekend when the Swifts play the Adelaide Thunderbirds before the Giants host the West Coast Fever. Double-headers at Qudos Bank Arena are also scheduled for rounds nine and 14.
But it’s this weekend’s contest which should give Sydney netball fans a guide as to how well their teams will fare this season.
Netball experts across the country, including Australian games record holder Liz Ellis, believe the Giants are capable of winning the entire competition, while the Swifts have been tipped to struggle after the significant turnover of their playing roster since losing last year’s ANZ Championship decider to the Queensland Firebirds.
“We are going for a championship, we’re not going to lie,” Green said.
“We’ve got really good depth, in our shooting, and in our mid court and in our defensive end.
“The cool thing is we can mix things up, especially in our shooting end we’ve got two moving shooters and a tall holding [shooter] and the ability to be able to mix that up. They’re three world-class players, too, which is really cool.”
Swifts captain Abbey McCulloch expected the round one clash against the Giants would be tighter than people were predicting.
“It’s going to be interesting because we play very similar as well … it’s going to be very close and I think whoever’s the fittest team will run over the top in the end,” McCulloch said.
“I’m expecting them to play very similar to how the Swifts played last year, Julie obviously was a Swifts coach for a while. They’re going to play very connected, very fast, very slick netball.”