R12 Match Preview: Firebirds v Thunderbirds

The Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds will focus on playing their own game this Sunday, and prevent southern rivals, the Adelaide Thunderbirds dictate play, according to head coach Roselee Jencke.

Last week’s match against the Giants was a relentless battle for control of play, with a notable level of whistle throughout the game.

Jencke defended Kim Jenner (GD) who attracted a high level of penalties, saying young players, who were up against experienced campaigners, are still learning.

“We’ve got young players. Kim and Tara are still learning their craft and the game, and Kim was playing against really experienced campaigners in Jo Harten and Jo is very clever – don’t underestimate how clever Jo is in being able to manipulate the court and the area she plays in.

“Those are things that Kim needs to learn and put into her game. I think this week has been a real focus on making sure we are dictating the space more,” she said.

Jencke sees this week’s match against seventh placed Thunderbirds as a great opportunity to secure the Firebirds’ first win.

“Shamera Sterling is having an outstanding season and so we want to minimise her impact as much as possible. The Thunderbirds attack is potent with Maria Folau and Chelsea Pitman and so we want to minimise their influence by disrupting their connection,” Jencke said.

With Tara Hinchliffe back from an ankle injury, Kim Jenner pulling up well after an early on-court spill last week, Gretel Tippett cleared to play after an accidental elbow to the face, and Romelda Aiken back on court and in good form, Jencke has some of the biggest guns in her arsenal at her disposal this week.

She has also tested new talent, Macy Gardner, in the centre and has delivered a “good start” verdict on her first two outings.

Jemma Mi Mi (WA) is evolving to become a reliable pair of hands. While her delivery of 18 feeds and 11 goal assists in last week’s game against the Giants is a good starting point, it’s clear her potential is developing and her inclusion in this week’s starting squad of 10 will deliver consistency in the mid-court for the Firebirds.

The team has farewelled South African import Erin Burger, who returned home to attend her brother’s wedding this week. The arrangement for an early end to her season came through mutual agreement, as, without finals prospects, it was felt that bringing her back for the remaining two games of the season was unnecessary.

Jencke said Burger’s contribution was significant and thanked her for answering the call in Round 5 when Mahalia Cassidy suffered an ACL injury.

“Erin made herself available and joined our team after the season had begun. Her ability to fit into this tight-knit group and integrate herself is to be lauded and to then deliver exceptional netball is evidence of what an outstanding netball player she is,” Jencke said.

This week’s match will be the final home game for the Firebirds and, with the stellar combination of Tippett and Aiken seemingly back to their blistering best – if last week’s performance is any guide, with Tippett firing 100 per cent, even with a nose injury and Aiken firing off 30 from 36 (83 per cent) – then this is a golden opportunity to bring home a win.

It also would be a fairytale ending for retiring Firebirds Laura Clemesha and Caitlyn Nevins, who are hoping for a victory in front of the sold-out purple army.

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