THE QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS HAVE SENSATIONALLY ENDED WEST COAST FEVER’S UNBEATEN START TO THE SUNCORP SUPER NETBALL SEASON, CLAIMING A HUGE 71-61 WIN AT THE BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE.
The Fever had been the league’s dominant side in the first four rounds with four straight wins, but that didn’t phase a fired-up Queensland outfit, who led from start to finish to prove that the Fever and their towering Jamaican recruit Jhaniele Fowler can be stopped.
The Firebirds’ frontcourt combination of Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett was near impossible to stop, and the home side was also staunch at the defensive end while making the turnovers they earned count.
Claiming the first bonus point of the match with a 17-16 lead at quarter-time, the Firebirds extended it to five at half-time and weathered a Fever challenge in the third quarter to remain in front by four at the final change. From there it was all Queensland, with a mid-quarter burst – courtesy of a series of turnovers from midcourters Mahalia Cassidy and Gabi Simpson – sending them 10 goals clear and allowing them to coast home in the final minutes.
Firebirds defender Laura Geitz came into the match sporting a black eye from her tussle with Kristina Brice in last week’s clash against the Giants, and her assignment didn’t get any easier this time around, marking Fowler for all four quarters.
The vocal home crowd was silenced early when Tippett crashed to the floor clutching her knee. The goal attack was quick to her feet, though, and was able to carry on.
Queensland got their ball movement going early to open up a three-goal lead, prompting a Fever timeout to address the early lapses in defence. A Jess Anstiss intercept proved pivotal for the visitors, who were able to cut the margin back to just one goal.
Two more turnovers from the Firebirds opened the door for the Fever, but the home side held their nerve to claim the lead at the first break.
There were more injury concerns for Queensland early in the second quarter, with Aiken appearing to injure her ankle, but she too was able to carry on and continued to dominate, finishing with 45 goals from 48 attempts for the game.
The Fever struggled to contain the Firebirds in transition, with Queensland racing out to a nine-goal lead and forcing changes to the West Coast defensive end. Ultimately, the home side took a 35-30 lead into half-time.
West Coast needed a defensive lift and they looked to young 197cm goal keeper Annika Lee-Jones to give them that spark, with an unusually quiet Courtney Bruce moved out to goal defence, Stacey Francis shifted to wing defence and Ingrid Colyer taken from the game.
It was a physical third quarter, which the Fever won to claim their first bonus point of the match, although they still trailed 51-47 on the scoreboard. It was all Queensland in the final term, racing out to an emphatic lead to claim a huge Suncorp Super Netball win.
Q1: Firebirds 17 v Fever 16
Q2: Firebirds 18 v Fever 14
Q3: Firebirds 16 v Fever 17
Q4: Firebirds 20 v Fever 14
Suncorp Super Netball premiership points
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken 45/51
Gretel Tippett 26/28
Fever shooting statistics
Jhanielle Fowler 48/49
Nat Medhurst 11/14
Kaylia Stanton 2/2
Firebirds starting seven
GS: Romelda Aiken, GA: Gretel Tippett, WA: Caitlyn Nevins, C: Mahalia Cassidy, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: Tara Hinchliffe, GK: Laura Geitz
Fever starting seven
GS: Jhanielle Fowler, GA: Nat Medhurst, WA: Ingrid Colyer, C: Verity Charles, WD: Jess Anstiss, GD: Stacey Francis, GK: Courtney Bruce
Nissan MVP: Gretel Tippett