Trinidad and Tobago international netballer Samantha Wallace shot a perfect game to lead the NSW Swifts to a thrilling 69-66 extra time win over the Queensland Firebirds on Sunday, as the Suncorp Netball Super League 2021 bounced off in Australia on the weekend.
Meanwhile, her T&T national teammate Kalifa McCollin made her Super League debut for Collingwood Magpies who did not begin the season in ideal fashion, falling to the classier Sunshine Coast Lightning by 11 goals. The Lightning embarked on their quest for a fifth consecutive Super League Finals appearance with a clinical 67-56 victory in round one.
The Magpies challenged the Lightning at various stages throughout the night, but ultimately lacked answers to Sunshine Coast’s classy ball movement. The Magpies fought back in the half’s later stages, though, and were helped by long range Super Shot scores by Gabrielle Sinclair and McCollin, who got very limited minutes and just five goals, but was particularly vocal when she came onto the court for the resting Jamaican international Shimona Nelson.
However, the opening round of the season belonged to Wallace, whose performance earned her pole position on the Nissan Net points standings, with 94 points. Wallace is a clear ten points ahead of last season’s MVP, Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler, who scored a league-best 60 goals for West Coast Fever during an emphatic 65-51 win over reigning champions Melbourne Vixens. But while Wallace was unblemished in her shooting, tall Jamaican Fowler missed four of her 59 shots and had five turnovers as well.
Wallace got 49 goals as her side held off the spirited Firebirds in the first instalment of extra time after the league this year introduced the bonus period to settle drawn regular season matches.
“This is fun, this is what we’ve been training for,” Swifts head coach Briony Akle said.
“You play to win and you want a result. We’ve done a lot of those scenarios and there’s no room for panic.”
A series of turnovers in extra time cost new Queensland head coach Megan Anderson a win on debut but outstanding Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson was delighted with the fight shown by her side.
“That hurt to lose in extra time but the way that we built in that game could be a big blessing in disguise,” said Simpson.
The Swifts were coasting towards a victory when they led by eight points during the second term. Their mid-court of Nat Haythornthwaite, Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley were dominant in the first half.
The Swifts will be full of confidence on the road as they make their way over to Western Australia to face the West Coast Fever, while the Firebirds will welcome the Thunderbirds to Nissan Arena in round two with another loud home crowd advantage.