Earlier this week, Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said, “We’ve got nothing to lose and now we’re playing for pride, to show our fans and ourselves what we’re capable of. We want to play our best netball.”
By any measure, the Firebirds showed tonight that they were the equal of the number two side in the competition. Gabi Simpson and the Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds showed they were capable of playing at the elite level in the toughest and the best netball competition in the world.
Gretel Tippett (GA) claimed MVP for the second match in a row, following up last week’s record-breaking Nissan Net Point score of 130 and 100 per cent accuracy (30/30) with a NNP score of 122.5 and 94 per cent (33/35).
Her sister-in-arms again was the retiring Caitlyn Nevins, whose season-best NNP score last week of 83.5 was eclipsed this week for her last game at elite level, scoring an extraordinary 99.5, with 29 goal assists and a phenomenal 39 feeds.
Head Coach Roselee Jencke has been consistent in her explanation of the team’s performance this season – a lack of consistency in the line-up and a high rotation of players coming in and out of the starting seven has been a significant factor.
And tonight’s performance vindicates Jencke’s logic.
Players were able to anticipate, throwing the ball to where they knew their teammate would be in a split second. That takes practice and extensive experience in match conditions, playing together under pressure and knowing how each other thinks when the opposition is in your face
Aiken and Tippett could flick the ball around the circle with barely a glance to locate their teammate. Nevins could pierce through a solid defensive wall to receive the centre pass, knowing Mi Mi would be around the other side near the circle to receive her pass when she needed her to be.
Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe delivered their strongest performances of the season, without doubt. They worked the circle like a pair of velociraptors, hunting in tandem and working very well together, nipping, prodding and jabbing. For these young defenders, there is much promise in tonight’s showing as they stared down the experienced campaigners of World Cup players Helen Housby and Sam Wallace. They should be very proud of their efforts tonight. It was world-class.
There is simply no substitute for having a consistent line-up who plays together week in, week out for 14 weeks. At this level, one loose ball can be the difference between a win and a loss – as it was tonight with 1:32 left on the clock when it was fumbled and resulted in a turnover that led to a Swifts point that delivered a win.
But Jencke’s season of frustration is now over. The injury count was extraordinary and will doubtless live on in infamy forever more.
Her players delivered a last-game performance she could be proud of and certainly a performance the fans are proud of. I hope they’re proud of themselves, because they played like true champions.
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