31 Jul 2016

Firebirds take trans-Tasman netball champs

5:28 pm on 31 July 2016

The Queensland Firebirds have beaten the NSW Swifts 69-67 in double extra time to win the trans-Tasman netball championship.

The Queensland Firebirds beat the NSW Swifts 69-67.

The Queensland Firebirds beat the NSW Swifts 69-67. Photo: Photosport

After nearly 80 minutes of physical, fluctuating netball the game was decided by the Firebirds' star goal shooter, Romelda Aiken, who defied a dodgy day under the goal to give her team the all-important two-goal buffer.

The Swifts rallied from five goals down in the fourth quarter to force an added period, and had chances of their own to avenge last season's equally thrilling grand final loss, but the key pillars of the Firebirds stood up.

With a two-goal lead needed to decide the title in the second stanza of extra-time, Aiken's 63rd goal of the day clinched the match and sent Brisbane Entertainment Centre into raptures.

"It's pure joy, it's such a special moment," Firebirds wing attack Caitlyn Nevins said after the final whistle.

"To have such a tough game like that and come over the line, it's just phenomenal. The crowd was just unreal.

"We had a three-goal buffer in a few of the quarters, but they kept fighting back. They're a quality side and they were never going to let us have it easy."

The lead changed hands 15 times throughout the match, with the Swifts taking an early advantage in the first quarter before the Firebirds hit back in the second.

Aiken found herself locked in a personal battle with Swifts defender Sharni Layton, who successfully put the Jamaican superstar, who finished with 63 goals from 89 attempts, off her game.

Aiken struggled to convert ample opportunities and was not being supported by goal attack Gretel Tippett, but to the Swifts' great coast, the visiting team could not make their ascendancy count on the scoreboard.

"I just had to get the ones I could. Romelda is phenomenal, I reckon she's by far the best shooter in the league," Layton said.

"It bloody hurts, but they were the best team by far all year. I hope they enjoy it because they deserve it."

Firebirds captain Laura Geitz was almost unbeatable in defence, making life awfully difficult for Caitlin Thwaites and Susan Pettitt in the Swifts' attacking third.

As the fourth quarter ticked down, it looked for all money like the Firebirds were going to run away with victory, backed by a tremendously vocal crowd in Brisbane.

But the Swifts came from nowhere to force extra time, and boast the momentum no less.

Both teams had chances, but Gabi Simpson's massive intercept gave the Firebirds the opportunity to win it. Aiken duly obliged.


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