Swifts happy to be underdogs

DESPITE their status as champions, the NSW Swifts again head into the Trans Tasman netball competition as underdogs.

In the inaugural season, doomsayers wrote off the chances of NSW due to the retirement of their Australian captain Liz Ellis.

This year the Swifts will start without defensive general Selena Gilsenan, however the title-holders are again determined to prove critics wrong.

“By the looks of things people still don't think we're going to make it and that's great,” said NSW captain Cath Cox at yesterday's ANZ series launch.

“We just generally have a very happy team and enjoy playing netball every week.”

Goalshooter Cox said the Swifts were fitter than last year and primed to start with a round one win over the Canterbury Tactix next Monday.

“There's no question we're fitter than we were this time last year - all the results of fitness testing we've done over the last few weeks show that.

“We're ready to go.“

Cox admits, however, that former Test representative Gilsenan's shoes have been hard to fill.

Former under-21 Australia player Sam May is set to start at goal defence, with Cox impressed at training by her strength and fitness.

The Swifts' greatest challenge is again expected to come from minor premiers Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, whom they toppled in the grand final.

Adelaide, who have lured former national players Laura von Bertouch and Jane Altschwager out of retirement and possess Australia's best player Mo'onia Gerrard, will also be a force after finishing third last season.

Adelaide opens the season against the Firebirds in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon

Wing attack von Bertouch, 28, retired at the end of 2007, citing burn-out, after making 18 appearances for Australia, but her sister and now captain Natalie, who has 38 Test caps, said her sister got the urge to play again after following the team last year.

The Melbourne Vixens finished fourth despite Australia captain Sharelle McMahon limping home with an injured knee.

After off-season surgery McMahon said her team expected to finish “much better than we did last year”.

“We've had quite a few changes in the team, five new faces but everything's gelling really well.”

The Vixens host the West Coast Fever, who have two ex-Vixens in their line-up.

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