QUEENSLAND Firebirds got their first win on the board for season 2021 downing Adelaide Thunderbirds in style, 68-57. The home side won three of the four quarters but led at every change showcasing their classy ball movement and defensive nous in what was a strong and consistent performance.
It was an even start to the game as both sides capitalised off their centre pass going goal for goal. But an intercept from goal keeper Tara Hinchliffe put a stop to that as the Firebirds went down the other end of the court to create the first break of the game. Romelda Aiken made history sinking her 2000th Suncorp Super Netball goal as the Firebirds skipped out to a handy four goal lead. Hinchliffe popped up again for Queensland but Matilda Garrett proved anything you can do, I can do better with a nifty intercept to send the Thunderbirds into attack.
The speed with which the Firebirds were playing caused all sorts of havoc for Adelaide with Shamera Sterling struggling to combat Aiken who was having a field day under the post. Her strength on the take was impressive and so was the delivery into the circle as Kim Ravaillion and Lara Dunkley released pinpoint passes. With the lead getting out to 10 goals the super shot period could not have come quick enough with Sam Gooden making her presence felt for the T’Birds with a handy two-point goal to reduce the margin to eight. The Thunderbirds started to rally as Lenize Potgieter got involved under the post cutting the margin to four goals but Kim Jenner and Hinchliffe employed some strong hands over pressure and contested each and every pass that came their way. Gretel Bueta re-entered the game this time in goal shooter, as Tippah Dwan showcased her playmaking skills out in goal attack. It was turning into somewhat of a super shot shoot-out as both Gooden and Dwan flexed their muscles from downtown.
Adelaide created plenty of opportunities throughout the early stages of the second quarter with Garrett impressing not only in defence but so too through transition. After a quiet start to the game, Sterling started to cause plenty of concern with her attacking mindset well and truly coming to the fore. The Firebirds’ defence also cranked things up as Jenner and Hinchliffe seamlessly combined to swat ball away and reel in the intercepts. The lead ballooned out to seven goals once again but the efforts of Maisie Nankivell did not go unnoticed as the wing defence forced a turnover and sparked a mini run for the Thunderbirds as they got back to within four goals.
Megan Anderson proved she was not afraid to ring in the changes in attack with Bueta, Aiken and Dwan all rotating through the circe while down the other end Rudi Ellis pulled on the goal keeper bib. An errant pass over the sideline for Thunderbirds gifted Bueta a chance to nail a super shot as things continued to tick along for the girls in purple. Hannah Petty plied her trade around circle edge to get a hand in and disrupt the attacking momentum for the Firebirds but Queensland’s flair and ball speed enabled them to extend to a 10-goal lead once more at half time.
The old firm of Ravaillion, Bueta and Aiken was hard to match for the Thunderbirds as their silky connections enabled them to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The overall defensive tenacity for the Firebirds increased as Gabi Simpson burst through for a pickup and the home side continued to motor exposing their opponents in every which way, and Georgie Horjus struggled to get into the game given Simpson was on her hammer. With the game slipping away from the Thunderbirds, Shadine van der Merwe was injected into the game and made an immediate impact with her drive through the centre and hands over pressure.
The rolling subs were well and truly alive for both sides as the Firebirds continued to tinker with the defensive line-up as Latanya Wilson also made her way onto the court for the Thunderbirds. The short, sharp passing from Queensland allowed them to weave their way through the court with their composure evident. Gooden once again turned it on with her super shot shooting sending tongues wagging and most importantly keeping her side within touching distance.
Looking for some fresh legs through the centre, Jemma Mi Mi got her time to shine with her speed and dynamic movement helping to slow the transitional speed. Dwan had a hot hand with the youngster composed to post and slotting them from everywhere. The fluidity in transition for the Firebirds enabled them to keep motoring and to build momentum, as the party tricks started to come out for the home side as Hinchliffe came screaming out for an intercept and Bueta showcased her sheer athleticism with a layup. It was a scrappy couple of minutes of play to ride out the game as Ravaillion got busy in attack to provide a steady head. In the end it was the class of the Firebirds that earned them the win.
Aiken had the ball on a string in attack for Queensland sinking 34 goals at 92 per cent while Bueta also impressed in her second game back with 18 goals, three of which were super shots. Bueta also displayed her playmaking tendencies with 13 goal assists however it was Ravaillion that really shouldered the load in attack notching up a team-high 17 goal assists and a deflection. The combination of Jenner and Hinchliffe was something to behold as they recorded nine deflections, 10 gains and six intercepts – five courtesy of Hinchliffe. Potgieter was the most proficient for the Thunderbirds nailing 29 goals from 32 attempts while Gooden dazzled from range landing six of 10 super shots. Sterling shone in defence with 10 deflections, three intercepts and six gains as Garrett also imposed herself with two intercepts.
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS | 22 | 16 | 14 | 16 (68)
ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS | 15 | 13 | 16 | 13 (57)
GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Bueta
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Tara Hinchliffe
GS: Lenize Potgieter
GA: Georgie Horjus
WA: Elle McDonald
C: Hannah Petty
WD: Maisie Nankivell
GD: Matilda Garrett
GK: Shamera Sterling