The heartbreak continues for the Firebirds with another loss for the season and, as captain Gabi Simpson said post-match, this one is particularly hard because the team wanted to send off retiring players Laura Clemesha and Caitlyn Nevins with a win.
The loyal purple army remain devoted to the end, with another sell-out crowd on their feet and cheering the team on.
But what started out as a show of strength, with much of the Firebirds’ sizzle on show, by the third quarter had wilted in the face of the Thunderbirds’ physicality.
The first quarter was electric. Jemma Mi Mi started well in centre, delivering fast, clean balls and finding open spaces. She kept Thunderbird Kelly Altmann on her toes and while Altmann’s experience gave her the edge, Mi Mi was far from outclassed.
In the circle, Romelda Aiken showed experience can triumph over enthusiasm and kept Shamera Sterling impotent in defence.
Aiken and her shooting partner Gretel Tippett delivered some dynamic combinations, with both able to pull down the high balls before converting consistently.
It’s tempting to think the Firebirds could have got away to an early lead by three or four, but for a few bad passes under pressure. At this level, a turnover means a conversion and the Thunderbirds did not squander any opportunities.
For retiring Firebirds, Laura Clemesha, and Caitlyn Nevins, it was not the fairytale ending anybody wanted for them.
But for Clem, the past two weeks have been the best of the season in terms of her impact on the game, delivering her highest Nissan Net Points scores of 59.5 (Round 11) and 56 (Round 12) points. Her two intercepts for this match resulted in goals for the Firebirds and she was able to deliver real connections through to her defending partner, whether that was Tara Hinchliffe or Kim Jenner.
For Nevins, the season best result came in the Round 6 draw against the Fever when she received 118 Nissan Net Points.
The Thunderbirds outmuscled the Firebirds in the fourth quarter, but it was decision-making under pressure early where our opportunities to create a lead in the first two quarters were missed.
Clemesha (GK) and Jenner (GD) worked hard in defence and there were many times in the first half when Maria Folou (GA) was in or near the circle and looking to pass to Sasha Glasgow (GS), but was unable to make the pass safely, forcing the ball back towards the transverse line. Extra passes bring extra risk and this game delivered turnovers aplenty – 48 to be precise, with 26 coming from the Firebirds and 22 from the Thunderbirds. Each turnover delivers a scoring opportunity to the opposition that the Firebirds could ill afford.
The Firebirds played with heart and there’s no question the team wanted this win badly. But the fourth quarter got away from them as the Thunderbirds changed tactics and increased their physicality. The lead edged out and by the full time siren had reached 71-59.
Q1: Firebirds 16 v Thunderbirds 15
Q2: Firebirds 14 v Thunderbirds 18
Q3: Firebirds 15 v Thunderbirds 18
Q4: Firebirds 14 v Thunderbirds 20
Suncorp Super Netball Premiership Points
Nissan Player of The Match: Maria Folau (Thunderbirds)
Firebirds shooting statistics: 59/64 (92%)
Romelda Aiken – 38/39 (97%)
Gretel Tippett – 21/25 (84%)
Thunderbirds shooting statistics: 71/75 (95%)
Maria Folau – 35/38 (92%)
Sasha Glasgow – 36/37 (97%)
Firebirds starting seven:
GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Tippett
WA: Caitlyn Nevins
C: Jemma Mi Mi
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Laura Clemesha
Thunderbirds starting seven:
GS: Sasha Glasgow
GA: Maria Folau
WA: Chelsea Pitman
C: Kelly Altmann
WD: Shadine Van Der Merwe
GD: Kate Shimmin
GK: Shamera Sterling
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