Firebirds clutch on to finals hopes
A week after the unveiling of a Laura Geitz statue, Gabi Simpson put up her hand to be similarly immortalised by leading the Queensland Firebirds to an upset 56-53 win against Suncorp Super Netball leaders GIANTS Netball.
It was the fifth-placed Firebirds’ best performance of the season and Geitz’s replacement as Queensland captain was the main driver behind the win.
She faced three opponents in 60 minutes and none could dull the wing defence’s influence.
Gretel Tippett’s 16 goals failed to adequately describe her impact as she contributed to a tactical power play that caught out the Giants.
Tippett and Romelda Aiken (40 goals) mixed and matched their positioning to keep their opponents guessing and when they clicked they were unstoppable.
Gone was the team that gave up a whopping 38 turnovers last week against the Thunderbirds, leaving the Firebirds clinging to the hope of a finals spot.
The Giants were never realistically in the hunt, although they ensured some tense moments with a brave fightback.
The first quarter was a prime example of why statistics can often deceive.
Queensland led by three at the first change but the margin and other numbers failed to explain how well they played.
Gabi Simpson had virtually no statistics against her name but it was her pressure that worried the Giants into a sequence of low percentage passes and turnovers.
Equally, Gretel Tippett’s tactical smarts were not obvious either.
She used depth and timing to keep Rebecca Bulley accountable and unable to exert her usual presence further down the court.
The trouble with standing Bulley, though, is she happily waits for her kill.
Her patience and determination was rewarded with a couple of second-quarter gains as the Giants fought to stay in the game.
The competition leaders scrapped but struggled to keep pace with the Firebirds in the lead-up to halftime.
Taylah Davies replaced Sarah Wall at wing attack in an attempt to break the Simpson’s stranglehold but the Queensland captain remained one of the most dominant figures on the court as the Firebirds led 31-24 at the long break.
Once possession turned back in favour of the Giants, as it did in the third quarter, the home side made good use of its hard-won ball.
Bulley and defensive partner Sam Poolman were having a torrid time against Tippett and Romelda Aiken but they stayed in the battle and won some key contests for their side.
Queensland led by six goals entering the final term, and looked in trouble when the margin was cut to two with just minutes remaining.
But the Firebirds attack end played smart and treasured possession to deny the Giants a thrilling comeback.
Photo: Getty Images