For the second time this season, Sam Poolman and the Giants fell to their arch-rivals the Swifts at Qudos Bank Arena. The 59-55 clash came right down to the wire, as the Swifts battled back from a four-goal deficit in the final quarter to stun the Giants.
Greater Western Sydney had won just one quarter, as they claimed the second 17-14, but for the squad it still felt like they’d let the precious win slip between their fingers. It was a similar story as the Giants began their campaign too.
A 63-56 loss to Swifts in the opening round was followed by a 16-goal defeat at the hands of the Vixens. They bounced back 58-50 against the Mapgies, and strung two wins together after knocking over the Firebirds 69-61.
Now the Giants are in “chasing mode,” Newcastle keeper Sam Poolman said of the 2018 runners-up current campaign.
It’s not necessarily a bad place to be, the Giants defender feels, after years of leading the pack only to fall just short. If the squad can finish in top four, that’s all that matters heading into the Super Netball postseason.
“In the past everyone had been chasing us, and that means that there’s not a lot of room for you to move forward and improve if that’s the case,” the Novocastrian superstar told the Women’s Chronicle.
“This time around we’re managing some big changes in the squad, and still going well despite that, so we’re pretty confident.
“I think after the first few games that we lost people were starting to write us off, and asking if there was something going on behind closed doors, but the only difference now is that we’re coming in a little further back than usual. If we can keep top four, and get to the finals, the team may even be able to go further than before.”
While losses aren’t exactly the most welcome of results, Poolman said the re-developing team “didn’t mind” too much copping the early season losses. It stung, yes, and especially the Swifts defeats, but they were chances to learn as well.
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“With a loss you spend so much more time thinking about it, going over it, and paying attention to the small things that went right or wrong in the game,” Poolman said.
“You think about what you might have changed, and what you need to fix, and it gives you a lot more to take with you to the end of the season. We can be better prepared this time around, for the most part we’ve hit a good mix of form ahead of the [World Cup] break. The team is just aiming for our benchmark right now.”
While the Giants as an outfit have been managing the loss of a number of big-name players Serena Guthrie, Rebecca Bulley and Susan Pettitt, Poolman has also had her own personal challenge in her defensive circle.
For Poolman’s entire Giants career, she shared her defensive duties with veteran Diamonds star Bulley. Now, off the back of Bulley’s retirement, the Newcastle defender has found herself adapting to a new scenario.
“I think change, in a way, is a positive thing,” Poolman said on losing Bulley, as well as seeing wing defence Jamie-Lee Price move to the centre role in 2019. “If there’s change, you don’t get new challenges as a player. You get comfortable with how things are.
“With new players alongside me like Amy [Parmenter, Giants graduate] you get this new energy and excitement that really pushes you to do better, and constantly improve. We have a really good culture, so it’s been fun adapating to these changes together.”
There was a period, the Giants keeper admitted, that she may have been “a little scared” to make mistakes. With long-term partner Bulley no longer there to efortlessly combine on plays, the possibility of failing became a much more real possibly for Sam.
“I had to find a new space to lead at the back, and I know that in the first few rounds I was trying to play a bit too safe, but that doesn’t allow me to achieve anything in games, or make my mark,” she said.
“As a defensive group we’ve taken some big steps in the last few rounds, and we’re finding more chances to show that we can back ourselves, and provide the difference that’s needed in the game. It’s challenging, but it’s fun too. It makes other teams have to figure us out all over again. I’m really excited to see how we can continue to grow.”
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The Giants now have one final fixture ahead of the planned World Cup break the Super Netball will be heading in to – a rematch against the Melbourne Vixens, at the Quaycentre on Saturday evening. With the Vixens just 11 points ahead of them in the standings, it’s a chance to move right back into the fight at the top of the table.
Then, the league takes a month-long break for the sport’s biggest international tournament. Super Netball is set to return on Sunday, July 28 for the Giants when they face the Collingwood Magpies on the road in Round 10.