Magpies divebomb Swifts but bad injury spoils party
THE NSW Swifts are hardly used to having their feathers ruffled, let alone getting knocked around to the tune of eight goals.
But the Collingwood Magpies clearly mean business in their late-season hunt for a Super Netball finals berth, picking apart the ladder-leaders in a comprehensive 64-56 win dampened by a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury to Diamonds mainstay Kelsey Browne.
Browne went down late in the second quarter at the Launceston Silverdome, landing awkwardly and clutching at her left knee before being helped from the court.
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While the 27-year-old remained courtside, an initial assessment suggested the news would not be good little more than three months after her sister and Magpies co-captain Madi Browne did her ACL.
Where the loss of such an integral player will undoubtedly hinder the Magpies' post-season hopes, the Swifts leave Tasmania with plenty of their own soul-searching on the agenda with one round remaining.
For the strongest side this campaign could not, for the first time all season, manage a single point from the eight on offer, losing all four quarters to leave themselves at risk of being displaced at the top of the table by Sunshine Coast Lightning before the weekend is out.
Perhaps they were missing England international Helen Housby, but this contest could not have been more different to these two teams' last meeting back in June when the Swifts won by 16 goals.
Here their defensive line was picked apart with ease and their attack lacking the same vigour as their Melbourne-based counterparts despite Samantha Wallace's 39 from 43 attempts.
Both teams wore black armbands in a sign of respect for Magpies coach Rob Wright, whose mother died on Friday and in whose absence assistant coaches Nicole Richardson and Kate Upton called the shots decisively.
Not that they really needed to, such was the product of their charges keen to halt the Swifts' pattern of having not yet lost a game when they've won the opening quarter.
Here NSW surrendered it decisively 17-13 as Geva Mentor directed play from the back and best on court Ashleigh Brazill shone at centre, throwing in a second-term pirouette on her way to a game-high 25 goal assists and 35 feeds.
Other plaudits were reserved for shooter Shimona Nelson, who found plenty of air in tight spaces and finished the match 52 from 54.
That was partly thanks to the service of goal attack Nat Medhurst (12/14), who fired at will and often from distance.
Before they knew it Collingwood had two quarters and two bonus points in the can.
Swifts coach Briony Akle had reacted to the rot well before that point having watched her team fail, uncharacteristically so, to score from seven general-play turnovers in the first quarter alone.
April Brandley made key early intercepts and was won of only two players to remain in their starting positions after the first break, as Akle moved the magnets considerably.
The shake-up forced the Magpies to think more creatively, yet they still preserved their four-goal quarter-time buffer to take the same lead into the long break at 32-28.
And yet, while the Swifts closed the deficit midway through the third they couldn't keep Collingwood out and the scoreline blew out to 48-42 at three-quarter time, and as far as nine goals in the fourth.