However, after successfully nullifying the effectiveness of Karla Pretorious for most of that run of play, their fans – and Swifts coach Briony Akle – watched in horror as the Lightning’s star defender was gifted opportunities that turned the tide of the third quarter and, ultimately the game.
“I thought we did a really good job of keeping Pretorious quiet and in that third quarter,” said Hadley. “But, we threw three [balls] straight into her hands, so that was disappointing for us … we were in control and we let it go.”
Akle also pinpointed those as the moments that allowed the Lightning to strike.
“After that seven-one run I think we let them in four-nil, so they got four in a row and our momentum shifted … we didn’t adjust,” she said.
The Swifts proved they could match it with the reigning premiers for most of the game. However, some forced passes under pressure – and being pinged four times for ‘held ball’ – proved costly.
“Very frustrating,” said Akle of the held ball. “[But] there were no options – whether or not it was held ball is irrelevant. For us, it’s knowing that part of our game plan was to have two viable options all the time [but] their defence came over the top – and probably all we saw was Lightning. We have to be better.”
Even so, there was a lot to like about the Swifts. Sam Wallace was at her sharpshooting best with 33 goals from 36 shots – and some passes she took under pressure would have impressed an AFL talent scout.
Helen Housby was outstanding, injecting herself into the contest to land 24 from 26 and providing eight goal assists. Defender Sarah Klau was at her no-nonsense best, while Hadley shone against the Lightning’s marquee player, Laura Langman.
“She is one of the benchmarks on the court and I love being up against her and having a challenge,” said Hadley of the duel.
“I had some on her, and she added a few quarters on me. It’s now a matter of going back to the drawing board to see what went wrong.”
The drawing board should expect to get a good workout at the Swifts training this week, with Housby conceding there’s still a lot of work to do.
“We need to learn how to be more comfortable in those tight moments,” she said. “Obviously the Lightning have a lot of experience in high-pressure games, and that’s something we’re learning to adjust to.
“I think it’s knowing when we have a lead we need to push on. We let little errors back into our game today.”
Daniel Lane is a sports reporter and video journalist with Fairfax Media.