Tegan Caldwell and Clare McMeniman

In first of two ANZ Championship Grand Final rematches for 2015, the Queensland Firebirds logged a valuable 55-48 away win over Melbourne Vixens this afternoon. It was the Vixens’ third loss in a row after back-to-back losses in Round Four (Adelaide Thunderbirds) and Round Six (West Coast) with a bye sandwiched in between.

One has to look back to 2012 for the last time that they lost three consecutive games, but despite a bad patch coach Simone McKinnis remains upbeat.

“There’s a whole lot of netball ahead and you just don’t know week to week how things pan out. You can be disappointed about a loss because we’re competitors and we want the win, but you have to move on really quickly.

“It doesn’t break my belief in the players or the team, it doesn’t shake that (because) that’s still there (and) we’re still finding the team we can be. I’m happy for us to keep trying to find it (next win) and we’ll get there.”

The game started with a bang for the Firebirds as Jamaican shooting machine Romelda Aiken and flamboyant goal attack Gretel Tippett scored the first three goals.

Kelsey Browne replaced sister Madi Robinson after the later was struck with injury.
Kelsey Browne replaced sister Madi Robinson after the later was struck with injury.

Aiken shot 37 goals from 26 attempts at 80 per cent and Tippett 18 from 26 at 69 per cent. They provided the perfect foil for each other; it looks like a two tall shooter combination could be where netball is heading.

Down the other end, goal attack Tegan Phillip (27/30 at 90 per cent) was the best of the Vixens shooters in what was a sometimes indifferent afternoon for them.

It wasn’t scrappy, but the first quarter featured plenty of physical and aggressive netball from both teams but Firebirds were able to draw first blows as they led at 14-12 at quarter time.

Caitlyn Nevins made the move north to the Firebirds searching for greater opportunities and today she definitely impressed, especially in the second quarter as Firebirds again led for much of the stanza. Nevins’ feeding coupled with slick skills from her teammates saw them lead 28-22 at quarter time.

Spurred on by a big crowd, it looked like the home team would be ready and waiting to stage a comeback, which they did in some ways but weren’t able to contain the superb display of skills from Firebirds.

They (Firebirds) led 42-35 at the final break but the visitors had to fight for the win as yet another Vixens come back was staged during the last quarter. Only time and not capitalising on opportunities earlier was what cost McKinnis and her team an opportunity to rebound from consecutive losses.

For several years now, the Firebirds midcourt has been built around young gun Kim Ravaillion and she definitely controlled midcourt proceedings today. Her ability to set up play in attack and create scoring opportunity helped to be named best on court.

Ahead of the Vixens is a two week block against New Zealand opposition, with home games against the Southern Steel next Sunday afternoon before they round it out and host Mainland Tactix the week after on ANZAC weekend.

Firebirds also have a two week block of back to back against New Zealand teams; firstly against the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic at home in Brisbane on Saturday, before flying across the Tasman to face the Northern Mystics.