Durheim plays for Swifts

KRISTY DURHEIM never expected to be thrown into the thick of it.

A 21-year-old mid-season addition to the undefeated NSW Swifts national netball team, she was just happy to be so close to the action.

A back-up to the Swifts’ back-up wing attack, Durheim was on a learning curve.

And then, two hours before the Swifts biggest game of the season – Sunday’s do-or-die encounter with a spot in the grand final up for grabs – the Lismore girl got the surprise of her life.

“We were having our regular meeting where (Swifts coach) Julie (Fitzgerald) names the team, and she says ‘wing attack – Kristy Durheim’,” Durheim said.

“It was totally unexpected; I knew nothing of it.”

And with those four words from coach Fitzgerald, Durheim would be thrust into the biggest game of her life where she, along with some of her childhood heroes, was expected to keep the Swifts’ season alive.

The whole season – the best on record by any team in Australian netball history – came down to this one game. Talk about pressure.

But Durheim didn’t feel any; more delirium, ecstasy and disbelief. Then the excitement.

“It is a fine line that you don’t want to cross where you become too excited,” she said.

“We had a semi-final to win. The whole season rested on one game.”

With emotions spinning wildly Durheim made the obligatory phone call to parents, Jack and Maria.

“I couldn’t talk to them,” she said. “They were too excited and needed to bring it back a few notches.”

Understandable, of course, but Durheim was all business.

After all, there were girls on the Swifts bench who had legitimate claims to Durheim’s spot – she had to perform and the game was on in less than two hours.

“I just tried to imagine it was any old netball game,” she said. “There was probably some disappointment from some of the other girls who had been here all year.

“But I had to put all that out of my head – it wasn’t my call.”

In combination with Kimberlee Green, Durheim held the keys to releasing key scorer and captain Catherine Cox.

“I grew up watching Catherine,” she said. “And even though Kimberlee is only a couple of years older, she is someone I have always looked too.”

Durheim was, no doubt, living the dream.

But not long after they took the court – the Swifts and Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic – the dream turned nightmarish.

Kiwi shooter Irene van Dyk took the game by the scruff of the neck, nailing 43 of 44 shots on goal as the Magic flew out to a nine-goal half-time lead.

As history shows, Durheim was replaced in the second quarter and the Magic went on to win 54-49 and book a spot in the grand final, bringing to a sudden halt the faultless season the Swifts had carved out.

But for Durheim, this was just the beginning.

A season in the Australian National League beckons for the Australian Institute of Sport silver scholarship holder, with the ANZ Championship’s next season to get underway in February 2011.

Durheim isn’t sure where she will end up, but Swifts coach Fitzgerald will remain at the helm for the coming season and her show of faith to throw Durheim in the deep end for her starting debut suggests the youngster will be back in the red and white next year.

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