New Swifts coach Briony Akle has targeted an instant return to the Super Netball finals after signing a three-year deal to take charge of the club she won two championships with as a player.
Akle was unveiled as Rob Wright’s replacement on Thursday, five weeks after the former coach stood down from the role for personal reasons.
The former NSW Institute of Sport head coach was quick to declare she had the cattle at her disposal to rebuild the Swifts into an Australian netball powerhouse.
“They’re extremely talented and they’ve proven last season that they took it to those top teams, they beat the [Melbourne] Vixens,” Akle said.
“I know they can do it. I’ve got a belief in them already that we can take that next step with them to close and win those games that we didn’t win this year.
“I’ve got absolutely full faith in the girls that are out there that as I get to know them better and they get to know me and we can do it together.”
The Swifts won just three games in the inaugural Super Netball competition this season after featuring in two-straight grand finals. Wright was forced to embark on a rebuilding job after six Swifts players were poached by other clubs following their loss to the Queensland Firebirds in the 2016 decider.
He signed imports Helen Housby (England) and Sam Wallace (Trinidad) who were exceptional in their debut seasons in Australia, but the Swifts were one of the most inexperienced Super Netball rosters.
“In the past they’ve been viewed as the young and inexperienced Swifts, obviously compared to the roster they had in the previous years,” Akle said.
“For me I’m like well I kind of think you are pretty experienced. There’s some great athletes in that group, girls that have had some great experience through Fast 5 and the last international Test series.
“We definitely want to aim high and get them back up in the finals. We all play to win and I’m right up there with that. Getting back in the finals is where I want to be.”
Akle plans to meet with her players in the coming weeks before pre-season training begins in early November.
The second Super Netball season doesn’t start until late April so as to accommodate the Commonwealth Games earlier that month, giving Akle plenty of time to mould the Swifts to their game style.
She didn’t immediately apply for the job when it became available, but eventually decided it was the right move for her and her family which includes four sons.
“I’ve always worked when I’ve had our kids and I’ve got a really supportive and wonderful husband who’s totally encouraging and I probably couldn’t do it without his help,” Akle said.
“I’ve got great family around on both sides. Everyone’s really positive and that was a big thing in taking the job. I’ve had my little village around me that’s willing and able to help and I honestly couldn’t do it without them.”