The Firebirds themselves sported new dresses for their retro-round – celebrating 20 years of the team’s existence. The names of 103 players from every game in their history was proudly displayed on each of the players’ backs, a point not missed by former Firebirds Karyn Bailey and Chelsea Pitman who were caught looking for their names on Laura Clemesha’s back prior to the commencement of the third quarter.

Photo: Simon Leonard

While there was a lot of hype around the importance of the round, it was a game that the Firebirds controlled from the outset and never looked threatened. While the chances of this Firebirds team making it into the finals are very thin, it was important for a strong performance to give them the best chance of survival. For the Thunderbirds, did they push the Firebirds hard enough, are they looking any closer to breaking their drought? For the Firebirds, was the performance dominant enough to show they belonged in the playoffs?

The first quarter opened with Adelaide running Sasha Glasgow and Erin Bell in the shooting roles. The game was quite sluggish in the first quarter, the Firebirds a little slow to inject themselves into the game, the Thunderbirds, a little slower. Both teams looked stronger defensively, with Fiona Themann and Ama Agbeze working well to overcome their height deficit against the Firebird’s attack, while Laura Clemesha and Kate Shimmin also started strong. In the attack end, Gretel Tippett showing she is keen to make an impact shooting 6/7 in the first and adding 11 feeds to lead the game early on. Bell shot well but needed to look for more opportunities at goal.

Photo: Simon Leonard

An incident early in the second quarter saw Jade Clarke collide with Caitlyn Nevins’ shoulder, resulting in Gia Abernethy coming from the bench to replace the injured Clarke while she recovered. Caitlyn Nevins demonstrated fantastic form for the Firebirds, regularly finding ball into the circle, while her opposing wing attack Pittman was doing a similar job for the Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbirds defence remained effective against their taller opponents, picking up possession well, but as Tippett exerted herself into the game she found ways around, and over the defence. Tippett finished the game leading the stats sheet for feeds, and lifted the team with exciting play when it was needed to build momentum, however, she was very costly in turnovers with seven for the game.

Photo: Simon Leonard

With Aiken contributing a further 12  turnovers the Firebirds still have a significant worry at that end of the court, and had the Thunderbirds been able to convert more into goals it could have proved costly for them. And this is the problem for coach Dan Ryan, too many opportunities failed to be capitalised on. The reality was that the Firebirds were able to get away with that kind of play and their defence was able to generate a significant number of turnovers.

Shimmin’s communication with Clemesha is working better than ever, the two combining well to frustrate the Thunderbird’s attack frequently and Clemesha picked up two intercepts for the quarter. After a timeout was called, the Firebirds took the opportunity to rest Erin Burger with Jemma Mi Mi taking the court for the first time in the game.

The third quarter saw the Firebird’s attack reinvigorate their mojo, with slick one-two combinations between Aiken and Tippett destroying the Adelaide defence.  Shimmin also ignitied in the defensive end picking up two of her four intercepts in the quarter, only bettered by Burger in Centre who snatched three passes off the Thunderbird’s attack. Scoring 18 goals for the quarter, the Firebird’s attack demoralised the opposing defenders, the one highlight for the Thunderbirds, and that too self-destructed.

Photo: Simon Leonard

The final quarter was an offensive shootout, with both teams delivering goals at a furious rate. To give the Thunderbirds credit, and to coach Dan Ryan’s delight, they were to finish the quarter with a pair of goals more than their Queensland opponents, winning the quarter 18-16, but it was not enough to change the outcome of the game.

Tippett finished the game with flawless shooting for the entire second half, and led the game in feeds, but was expensive on turnovers. Aiken, too, will be happy with her performance, but will need to watch her footwork and keep her turnovers down as they enter the final rounds for 2017. Nevins was pivotal to the success of the Firebird’s attack, working hard on the circle edge and delivering a mastery of feeds only bettered by Tippett. It was the defence of the Firebirds, particularly Shimmin, that stood out in this game, applying consistent pressure that the Thunderbird’s attack could never relax around.

Photo: Simon Leonard

For the Thunderbirds, this quarter was their strongest performance, Malysha Kelly entered the game and performed well-enough, but it was Pitman who stood out as the most consistently performing Thunderbird throughout the game, Bailey their next best performing athlete.

 

What they said

After the game Gretel Tippett described the game as fun, stating that Roselee Jencke suggested she needed to look to her layup again “I made sure I took the opportunity if it was open”.

After a highly criticised performance in the previous game, she states “I reassessed my goals, and I have a really good support network, we got back to the drawing board and nutted out new goals for this week”. And it worked.

 

Queensland Firebirds 59 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 48
Player of the Match: Kate Shimmin (Queensland Firebirds)

 

Queensland Firebirds
Aiken 39/47 83%
Tippett 20/24 83%
59/71 83%

Adelaide Thunderbirds
Glasgow 15/22 68%
Bell 8/10 80%
Bailey 25/27 93%
48/59 81%

 

Twitter: @taipan_gc
Photos: Simon Leonard