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Handling expectation the next challenge for Swifts, says coach

They're slowly shedding the "inexperienced" tag that hounded them last season and now Swifts coach Briony Akle wants her side to learn how to handle the increasing external expectation.

The Swifts head into Sunday's blockbuster against premiers Sunshine Coast with a 4-2 record, but that was almost tarnished in the lead-up to last weekend's bye when Akle's side barely scrambled past winless Adelaide.

On the up: The Swifts celebrate victory over the Giants in round three.

Photo: AAP

It was the first time this season the Swifts had been expected to win a game comfortably and Akle said the unfamiliarity of that expectation had been a burden for her side.

"We felt a lot of pressure going into that, probably more than any other game," Akle said.

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"It was a different type of pressure to other games, purely based on the fact that Thunderbirds hadn't won a game. People thought we were going to win by 20.

"I don't really worry about everyone else's expectation on that. We still got the points and moving forward that was the game that was going to be our turning point, whether we win or we lose under that pressure. In the last five minutes that game could've gone either way and we got through it.

"We're just going to focus on us to see that we get better and better from now on."

The Swifts have already eclipsed last season's win tally less than halfway through the Super Netball season and their only two losses in 2018 have been away from Sydney.

Sunday's clash against the Lightning is part of a run of six games out of seven being played by the Swifts in the Harbour City in the middle stretch of their Super Netball schedule, prior to the last three rounds of competition, which are all away from home.

A trip to Brisbane to take on the Queensland Firebirds next week precedes a run of three straight in Sydney against the Melbourne Vixens, the neighbouring Giants and ladder leaders West Coast.

Akle's team rounds off the season with trips to Collingwood, Sunshine Coast and Adelaide, which will likely determine their finals destiny.

"We haven't won away; we're building towards how that looks for us with our last three games on the road," Akle said.

"The next three games at home are crucial in terms of getting those points leading into those away games. We've got a tough road, I think."

That tough road starts against the Lightning on Sunday, who have strung three straight wins together after a sluggish start to the year.

The Swifts comfortably downed Sunshine Coast in the pre-season, but Akle is bracing for a much tougher challenge this time around.

"It's a whole different game to what we played against them in pre-season," Akle said. "We've watched them and we're very impressed with how they've improved every game.

"They've been through some hard times with their coach not being there and they've still been successful and played for each other. They're one of the most successful teams at the bonus points [scoring system].

"For us, that's a team to look up to and go, 'that's another benchmark'."

James Buckley

James Buckley writes on AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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