Revenge served Swiftly by Firebirds
REVENGE is a dish best served cold. And a pumped-up Firebirds iced a 60-57 victory over arch-rivals NSW Swifts in a Super Netball grudge match in Brisbane on Sunday.
Queensland did not like how the Swifts celebrated their upset win in round one only adding to the rivalry between the two clubs that fought out the 2015 and 2016 trans-Tasman grand finals.
Throw in the fact the match was played just hours before the latest chapter in rugby league's interstate stoush and spirits were running high.
The raw intensity was summed up by Firebirds great Laura Geitz in the fourth quarter when she swung her elbows and sent a death stare towards Swifts shooter Sophie Garbin after they competed for the ball.
A fired-up Queensland simply wanted it more, dug deep and held their nerve when the Swifts came at them late.
The Firebirds claimed three bonus points to solidify their place in the top four ahead of next Sunday's derby against the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
The stage was certainly set for a State of Origin-like battle in the pre-game entertainment.
Rugby league immortal Wally Lewis passed on his best wished to the Firebirds via a video message, a singer belted out a version of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" and maroon and light blue balloons adorned one end of the court where "QLD" and NSW" lights followed the same colour scheme.
After flame-flowing machines almost singed the eyebrows of the Firebirds players as they were introduced to the crowd and entered the court, Queensland got off to an equally red-hot start, opening up a four-goal buffer midway through the first quarter.
A handful of turnovers stifled the Firebirds' momentum but the home side was still able to take a 16-14 lead into quarter-time.
The Firebirds reasserted themselves in the second quarter to the point that NSW replaced goalshooter Sam Wallace as Queensland collected their second bonus point of the day on the way to a 29-26 advantage at halftime.
The Firebirds were up by as many as six goals in the third term as they claimed another bonus point and a 44-40 lead at the last change with the Swifts refusing to go away in front of 5526 spectators.
Romelda Aiken hit 43 goals from 49 attempts while Gretel Tippett added 17 from 18 shots. Helen Housby hit 23 goals for the Swifts while Garbin added 19 for the visitors.
Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said the win "absolutely" meant a little more than most.
"Because of that first game where they really took it from us. That really hurt us … but also in the bye week we had a real think about what we need to do to start winning the close games,'' she said.
"From the start to the finish there was consistent pressure and that's something that we have really been working on.''
Simpson said the win would do wonders for the confidence in the Firebirds cap ahead of the 'Sunshine Shootout' against the Lightning next Sunday.
Swifts coach Briony Akle said silly mistakes coast her side dearly but was proud of the fight her team showed to stay in the hunt.
"I think we were a bit careless with the ball, to be honest,'' she said.
"You can't do that against a team like these guys. For me it was little errors that cost us the match.
"We were four down (at three-quarter time). I'm super happy with them, it could have been 10 goals last year. It hurts to lose but we'll take a lot from that.''
Meanwhile, the Vixens powered past Collingwood in the second half to claim a 65-57 win in the Melbourne derby yesterday (Sun).
The Magpies led by five goals at halftime but the Vixens put the pedal down and outscored Collingwood 37-24 after the main break to add to the star-studded side's woes in 2018.
Collingwood has just two wins from eight rounds while cross-town rivals Vixens improved their record to 5-3.