“We’ll be back.”
It didn’t take long for Briony Akle to make that promise after seeing the reception her NSW Swifts coach received at Dubbo’s Taronga Westerns Plains Zoo and then at Orange’s Sir Neville Howse Stadium on Thursday.
Netball fans young and old were on hand to meet the Suncorp Super Netball side in both central west cities and the newly-appointed coach was delighted by what she saw.
All the Swifts’ biggest names were on hand.
Paige Hadley was incredibly popular with the youngsters, as was Abbey McCullough but each and everyone of the Swifts enjoyed the chance to meet juniors who played in their own position.
“We had a great bus ride and we’re so happy to be here and seeing our Swifts fans who we don’t get to see that often,” Akle said.
“We’re really, really happy to be here.
“We know we’re bigger than just Sydney and that we have got loads of supporters in rural areas like Orange, Dubbo and surrounds so it was really important for us, going into next season, to connect with the fans who aren’t just in Sydney.”
Akle, a former Swifts player who replaced Rob Wright as coach in early September, was one of the driving forces behind the regional tour.
We know we’re bigger than just Sydney and that we have got loads of supporters in rural areas like Orange, Dubbo and surrounds.Swifts coach Briony Akle
She spent much time planning with Orange’s Mardi Alpin, Netball NSW’s regional development and pathways unit manager, who also helped ensure the Swifts made the trip over the mountains.
While enjoying every moment of spending time with fans, Akle was also thrilled to see the trip bringing her players closer together.
The Swifts missed the finals in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball competition but with a new mentor, new players and plenty of unity within the side, Akle is keen to see her side climb the ladder.
“We commented yesterday about how it was a great time for the girls to be together,” she said.
“You’re forced in a bus for six hours so you get to know each other and we’ve got a couple of new players so it was really cool to be together for that time and have that bonding.
“We’re back on court next week with the ball in hand so now we’ve just getting the fitness back.
“We’re definitely hoping to be making those finals and then hopefully winning it.”
The Swifts were a little more relaxed in Dubbo, checking out the zoo and mingling with fans, before running Orange Netball Association’s up-and-comers through their paces.
“They (players) have had a ball,” Akle said.
“We got on the bikes at the zoo [on Wednesday] and went for a bit of a tour, which was fantastic and they couldn’t wait to meet the kids.
“It’s really important they meet out fans who are in regional NSW and we’re super happy with it.”