Abbey McCulloch of the Swifts exchanges high-fives with young fans.
Abbey McCulloch of the Swifts exchanges high-fives with young fans. PAUL MILLER

Swifts out to prove first-up form was no fluke

SWIFTS captain Abbey McCulloch says beating the Adelaide Thunderbirds in round two will prove to critics she and her teammates are the "real deal" after they fell just short of the first Super Netball upset on the weekend.

Written off as top-four contenders pre-season, the much-maligned Swifts defied this prediction by outplaying a slow-starting Giants for all but the final quarter of the season-opener at Sydney Olympic Park.

The Giants, who trailed by as many as five goals during the game, hit their straps in the final five minutes to take the game 58-53.

While even coach Rob Wright expressed surprise at how close the Swifts were to upsetting the star-stacked Giants, McCulloch was not.

"I wasn't surprised at all. I slept easy on Friday night knowing we had done everything we needed to, that we had done the hard work," said McCulloch, one of only four players from last year's Swifts to return for the club in the new competition.

"I'm really proud of them.

"We are really dangerous. We have known it all along.

"I don't think anyone will take us lightly now."

However, McCulloch believes there will be some critics in the stands who believe the Swifts' thriller against the Giants was a "one off".

"I think people still doubt us. I think they think it is a one off," she said.

"It's why it will be important to get the points in our next match."

The Swifts host the Thunderbirds on Saturday at Qudos Bank Arena at 5pm in the first of a Sydney double-header.

The Giants will play their second match of the season at 7pm against the West Coast Fever with officials hoping for a domestic netball record crowd at the venue.

In 2016, 13,314 fans watched the Swifts take on the Firebirds at Qudos.

While the Swifts came close to an upset on Saturday night, the Melbourne Vixens pulled it off in the opening round of Super Netball by beating competition favourites the Collingwood Magpies 58-55.

With five Diamonds in their starting seven and the backing of a powerful AFL club, the Magpies are touted as the team to beat this year.

Magpies coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell said her team struggled due to the loss of Australian players to recent international commitments but acknowledged the Vixens played better than her stars on the night.

The third local derby of the round resulted in a 56-56 draw between the established Queensland Firebirds and the new Sunshine Lightning team.