Swifts 65 Steel 52
Taking flight: Kim Green gets airborn as the NSW Swifts defeat the Southern Steel in Canberra on Friday. Photo: Supplied
NSW Swifts shooters Caitlin Thwaites and Susan Pratley gave their Commonwealth Games selection hopes a big shot in the arm with starring roles in a 65-52 win over Southern Steel at AIS Arena on Friday.
With Australian coach Lisa Alexander watching on, Swifts goal-shooter Thwaites made her first 21 shot attempts, before being subbed out late in the third quarter with 32 out of 35.
After back-to-back losses, NSW Swifts coach Rob Wright said all week he wanted 60 minutes of relentless intensity against Steel.
The NSW Swifts take on Southern Steel
The NSW Swifts take on Southern Steel at the AIS Arena. Photo: Rohan Thomson
That's exactly what they delivered in front of the 2768-strong Anzac Day crowd, the first ANZ Championship game to be played in Canberra.
Still stinging from last week's 55-40 loss in Queensland, the Swifts burst out of the blocks with an 18-5 burst to grab the ascendency from the outset against a stunned Steel.
Alexander would have liked what she saw from Thwaites, who was named in an 18-player Commonwealth Games squad last week.
The final 12 to play in Glasgow will be named after next week's ANZ Championship round.
Thwaites is looking to nail down her first Commonwealth Games appearance, while Pratley was recalled to the side for the first time since 2012.
Pratley hopes their blossoming combination will be a bonus in their favour at the selection table.
"Combination-wise we think we're playing pretty well, so hopefully that gets taken into consideration,'' Pratley said.
"We knew we had to start well today, we've been disappointing the last couple of weeks.''
Thwaites said the pair benefited greatly from a training session with Alexander in Canberra on Thursday.
Getting the Swifts back on track was her main focus, but she did her Commonwealth Games hopes no harm.
"Combinations are always helpful in selection, but today we were out there playing for the red and that's what we try and focus on,'' Thwaites said.
"Last week's game was very unlike us, it was a frantic feeling out there and we wanted to get back to the short, sharp game we play and we did that.''
Led by giant goal-shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, the Steel have been an attacking juggernaut this year with a league-best average of nearly 60 goals a match.
The Jamaican international was coming off 60 goals with just one miss against Mainland Tactix last week, but the Swifts defence smothered the Invercargill-based outfit to build a 37-24 half-time lead.
Fowler-Reid (42-45) was kept relatively quiet by her standards, with defenders Sharni Layton and Sonia Mkoloma sharing the load on the 1.98-metre giant.
NSW led 20-10 at quarter-time and clinched their fifth win of the year with a 17-12 third quarter.
Wright then used the final term to give his bench players more time, including Adelaide product Carla Dziwoki who played for AIS Canberra Darters in the former national league.
Swifts skipper and Australia vice-captain Kim Green patrolled the middle third beautifully, giving Thwaites and Pratley (23-28) ample opportunities.
It was just the response Wright was looking for, the Swifts [5-3] solidifying third place on the table before a road clash against ladder leaders Melbourne Vixens next week.
Green said a player heart-to-heart after the Firebirds loss helped put the Swifts back on track.
"The want for the ball was definitely not there, defensively we weren't close enough to our player and today was much better,'' she said.
"The more this shooting combination works well together, the more Lisa is going to look at it and think we need those two in the team.
"It gave you goosebumps knowing it was Anzac Day, and it was a special day for netball in general.''
NSW SWIFTS 65 (Caitlin Thwaites 32-35, Susan Pratley 23-28, Carla Dziwoki 9-9) bt SOUTHERN STEEL 52 (Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 42-45) at AIS Arena on Friday. Crowd: 2768