Geva Mentor coathangers Firebirds shooter Gretel Tippett.
Geva Mentor coathangers Firebirds shooter Gretel Tippett.

Firebirds soar in ‘Sunshine Shootout’

FIREBIRDS captain Gabi Simpson says the "fearless'' purple powerhouse is back in business as a Suncorp Super Netball contender after Queensland claimed a hard-fought 55-52 victory over the Sunshine Coast at Boondall.

Without injured superstar Laura Geitz (back), a scorching 20-9 second quarter from the Firebirds set-up their first-ever "Sunshine Shootout'' win and their first success of 2018 while the Lightning are winless after two rounds of their title defence.

Simpson said the three-time trans-Tasman champions yesterday played the kind of netball that can help them return to the top after missing the finals last year.

Queensland face 2017 minor premiers Melbourne Vixens and last year's grand finalists GWS in the next fortnight in further tests of their credentials but Simpson says the Firebirds have vital belief in each other.

"We looked ahead for this period of time and we had three of the top four teams from last year so we wanted to really stamp our authority on the competition and show this competition that we are not willing to just step back like we did last year,'' Simpson said.

"We want to be a contender and we are a contender.

"That is the type of netball that we want to play. It wasn't consistent across the quarters but what we needed to start to feel was that belief and that trust in each other.

Mahalia Cassidy wins a contest.
Mahalia Cassidy wins a contest.

"There was fearless netball. We were contesting ball and that is what the Firebirds brand is all about.

"That (second quarter) was the moment we started playing with our purple hearts and we put it on our sleeves and we started to just completely trust and play freely.''

Simpson said the Firebirds learned the hard lessons from last week when they stumbled in the fourth quarter against NSW Swifts as a 6627-strong crowd at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre cheered them home in the Queensland derby.

After turnovers cruelled them in the second quarter against a clinical Firebirds, the Lightning roared back into the contest in the third quarter when they cut a nine-goal deficit to just two goals going into the fourth term.

The Sunshine Coast got to within a solitary goal at the start of the tense, tight, physical and ferocious fourth quarter but the Firebirds held their nerve.


Geva Mentor and Romelda Aiken tussle for possession.
Geva Mentor and Romelda Aiken tussle for possession.


Firebirds star Romelda Aiken (39/45) and 50-game milestone goal attack Gretel Tippett (16/21) rediscovered some of their best high-flying form for Queensland while Caitlin Bassett (35/36) and Steph Wood (17/18) were efficient for the Lightning who held a 15-11 advantage at quarter-time.

Bassett said the Lightning broke down defensively as a team in the second quarter to hand the Firebirds the all-important momentum but has faith in the Lightning to get their championship defence on track.

"I think we relaxed a bit in defence. When you've got two dominant shooters like Romelda and Gretel it takes a whole seven to really defend them and slow the ball up,'' she said.

"We are really realistic about this season and what it means for us. Every game that we have is an opportunity to grow. Next week is a big for us and we need to come out and win.''

The Lightning play West Coast Fever at USC Stadium this Saturday.