Turning back the clock: NSW Swifts emulate 2008 legacy

The NSW Swifts celebrate victory after winning the ANZ Championship title in 2008 Matt King/Getty

Returning to the NSW Swifts felt like coming home for former defender Bec Bulley.

But not just because of the familiar faces, its history and structures. Being around the team was like turning back the clock to 2008, when the Swifts won the inaugural ANZ Championship title.

There's an air about the current roster that has its former players seeing double.

Both Bulley, who is the Swifts' assistant coach, and Catherine Cox said at last week's season launch the team's camaraderie is similar to that of 12 years ago.

In that season, the Swifts were written off before it even started. Liz Ellis had retired and their roster was overhauled with the merging of two NSW clubs.

Having recorded three early losses, the Swifts went on a nine-game winning streak that culminated in a grand-final victory against Waikato Bay of Plenty. And the key to that success? Camaraderie.

"That 2008 season, no one tipped us to make the finals let alone win," Bulley said.

"We lost three early games and were like 'oh no, this is going to be a long season.' But we just got better and better with every game.

"The reason we ended up winning was because we just got along so well and enjoyed each other's company. We worked hard."

The same culture and camaraderie is what Bulley sees in the current Swifts, saying the players have a close bond and work hard to get the best out of each other.

While it's not a groundbreaking attribute for a sports team, what NSW has over other Super Netball clubs is roster stability.

Nine of their 10 players were in the Swifts squad that claimed the 2019 Super Netball title, with Tayla Fraser the only new recruit - having been elevated from a training partner last year.

That stability is what's laid the foundation for those bonds to blossom, which translates well for them on court.

"I do see that [likeness to 2008]. They all get along so well, honestly they do," Bulley said.

"There's about eight players who live together across two houses. How the hell do they do that? But they seem to get along really well, there's no issues.

"They're all respectful, willing to learn and take on feedback. They have fun as well, they don't take themselves too seriously."

This Sunday's clash with the Queensland Firebirds at Nissan Arena brings a short preseason to an end, with the Constellation Cup and quarantine measures hindering their training.

Co-captain Paige Hadley is confident it'll all come to the table come round one, saying the team has overcome the disjointed preparation well as they look forward to a normal season.

"It's been a bit disjointed but honestly, it feels like we've been together for quite a while in the lead up," Hadley said.

"Normality has been nice, it's nice to be home and focusing on what we're doing, processes and structures.

"The way the team is put together with the likes of [Lauren] Moore, I'm really excited to see her get more court time and grow as an athlete on court. I think she's going to be absolutely lethal for us this year.

"But obviously, I'm looking forward to success. I want to see everything we've been working on out there. There's going to be challenges along the way but we've got to pick ourselves up and be the last ones standing at the end of August."

Returning to the Super Netball final will be no easy feat for the Swifts this year, with their rival teams doing well with recruitment and structural changes that has the league primed for a close finish.

The Queensland Firebirds and Collingwood Magpies will enter a new era with Megan Anderson and Nicole Richardson respectively at the helms.

Experienced players including Gretal Bueta, Kim Ravaillon and Ash Brazill will also be welcomed back to the league, in a massive boost to the clubs starved of recent success.

"As cliché as it may sound, I think this year is going to be quite close," Hadley said.

"We're not going to have a real top and bottom four, I think it's going to be a close fight for those third and fourth places.

"Collingwood has a new coach and quite a similar team to last year, but with Ash [Brazill] coming back they're going to be an absolute threat.

"The Giants haven't had any changes from last season to this season, so they're quite stable in their play. This year is going to be one of the closest, those early wins are going to be crucial to set up the season."