The battle-hardened Queensland Firebirds say they must be fearless to upset Melbourne Vixens in Sunday’s trans-Tasman netball decider.
The Firebirds set up a tantalising all-Australian grand final with a hard-fought 54-50 preliminary final victory over the Waikato-Bay Of Plenty Magic on Monday night.
As well as home court advantage at Hisense Arena, the Vixens boast a 2-1 head-to-head record over the Queenslanders this season – including a 52-47 play-off win eight days ago.
But Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke believes her team went a long way to address their problems from the major semi-final loss by holding their nerve under immense pressure against the Magic.
The Kiwi side pushed Queensland all the way at the Brisbane Convention Centre in a perfect preparation for the decider.
“We said finals are for the brave and we’ve got to step up and step into the unknown and be fearless,” Jencke said. “I thought that was a much more positive step towards that.
“We haven’t played our best netball against the Vixens. We’ve been inconsistent and we need play consistently.”
Captain Laura Geitz, who lamented her own poor major semi-final display, said the Firebirds would also be better for last year’s narrow grand final loss to the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.
“We definitely know what it’s like to be the bridesmaids and we definitely don’t want to be the bridesmaids this year,” the goal keeper said. “But we have to play fantastic netball to beat the Vixens.
“They have shown all year that they are the benchmark.”
In the Firebirds’ recent loss to Melbourne, a Madi Robinson-inspired Vixens blew them away early for a seven-goal lead.
It’s Queensland’s only defeat in their past eight matches, after racing into the finals with a six-match streak.
Geitz hailed youngsters Amy Wild, Verity Simmons and Gabi Simpson for stepping up in 2014 following the departures of Natalie Medhurst and Chelsea Pitmann.
“A lot people obviously thought with us losing Nat and Chelsea at the start of the season that it was more of a rebuilding phase this year but to be heading back into a grand final for a second year running says a lot about the playing group.”