R11 Match Report: Scrappy battle yields two bonus points for Birdies

Even though finals netball isn’t on the cards, the Firebirds are fighting hard for a win as evidenced this round in one of the most physical games of netball this season, which has resulted in a possible broken nose for Gretel Tippett and two bonus points to the Firebirds in their loss to the Giants, 63-57.

Losing key defender Tara Hinchliffe due to an ankle injury was a blow, but ultimately did not leave the Birdies weak in defence as head coach Roselee Jencke put Laura Clemesha into keeper and Kim Jenner into defence.

The first quarter delivered plenty of drama. The Firebirds got away to what was probably their strongest start of the season, leading 7 – 2 after just five minutes. The plays were coming strong and fast and Tippett (GA) and Romelda Aiken (GS) were playing at their season best, finding each other easily in the circle.

The centre court was also working well, with captain Gabi Simpson (WD) and Jemma Mi Mi (WA) using cross-court lobs well to open up the court and find space.

But the brutal injury curse that has blighted the Firebirds’ season wasn’t done yet and just five minutes in came a brutal Kristiana Manu’a elbow into Gretel Tippett’s face, with blood flowing freely from her nose almost immediately. Play was halted while the court was cleaned up and Tippett was sent to the medics.

Abigail Latu-Meafou came on as replacement GA and she worked hard to find a rhythm with Aiken. But by the end of the quarter, Tippett was back and the first quarter ended 15-13, with the Firebirds claiming the bonus point.

The Giants were determined to rein in the Birds before they took flight and the second quarter became a show of strength as two sides worked to grind out a lead. Play was scrappy and the level of frustration from both sides was clear as penalties began to mount.

In the third quarter the Giants subbed off captain Kim Green, bringing on Kiera Austin while the Firebirds brought on Macy Gardner for Erin Burger. Those two changes resulted in a huge shift in momentum with the Giants scoring 21 goals to the Firebirds’ 12.

As the game wore on, the penalties continued to pile up. Commentators agreed this was a physically punishing match that will be felt for days by the players.

The fourth quarter was equally brutal as players threw themselves bodily into the contest for the ball. At the final time-out Simpson urged her teammates to win the bonus point – and they did, before conceding defeat on the full-time score, 63-57. Another heartbreaking loss.

However, for the Birdies’ there is comfort in taking two bonus points from the game. Round 11 continues the season of frustratingly narrow losses as the team now turns its focus to the last home game of the season, Round 12 against the Thunderbirds. The purple army will be keeping fingers and toes crossed that our team pulls up well, without serious injury, as we prepare for the final matches of the season.

Score breakdown:

Q1 Giants 13 v Firebirds 15
Q2 Giants 14 v Firebirds 13
Q3 Giants 21 v Firebirds 12
Q4 Giants 14 v Firebirds 16

Suncorp Super Netball Points:

Giants – 6
Firebirds – 2

Nissan Player of the Match: Jo Harten (Giants)

Giants shooting stats: 63/71 (88.7%)
Caitlin Bassett: 30/32 (93.8%)
Jo Harten: 33/39 (84.6%)

Firebirds shooting stats: 57/64 (89.1%)
Romelda Aiken: 30/36 (83.3%)
Gretel Tippett: 23/23 (100%)

Giants starting seven:
GS: Caitlin Bassett
GA: Jo Harten
WA: Kim Green
C: Jamie-Lee Price
WD: Amy Parmenter
GD: Kristiana Manu’a
GK: Sam Poolman

Firebirds starting seven: 
GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Tippett
WA: Jemma Mi Mi
C: Erin Burger
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Laura Clemesher

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