• Stephanie Smarrelli

Lightning triumph over the Firebirds in the Queensland derby


Image: Super Netball

THE Sunshine Coast Lightning struck against their state rivals on the weekend, taking three bonus points in their 15-goal win against the Queensland Firebirds.

The Firebirds went into the match without their captain Gabi Simpson after straining her hip at training forcing the late change. Without Simpson on court the Firebirds lacked that experience and guidance down back but tried hard all game. Maddison Hinchliffe twin of up and coming defender Tara Hinchliffe was brought into the squad for Simpson, but did not get any court time.

It was goal-for-goal early, but a strong intercept from Phumza Maweni resulted in a Peace Proscovia goal which she then backed up, giving the Lightning a two-goal lead. During the rest of the quarter, the Lightning demolished the Firebirds with Laura Scherian and Laura Langman speeding through the mid-court, delivering the ball easily into the goal circle.

Down the other end, the Lightning suffocated the Firebirds’ attack with Maweni and Karla Pretorius making it hard for the Firebirds to get a clean feed into the circle. Although the Firebirds were finding it hard to score, Gretel Tippett slotted in her 1000th league goal during the first quarter and continuously injected herself into the game to make her an option both in the goal circle and across the court.

The Firebirds made some much needed changes in the second term to try and combat the brilliant start that the Lightning had with their quick ball movement, precision and accuracy to post. Coach Roselee Jencke tinkered with the defence end moving Hinchliffe from wing defence into goal keeper and forcing Laura Clemesha to the bench after an ordinary start. But the changes did not stop there with Mahalia Cassidy swapping the centre bib for wing defence while Jemma Mi Mi came off the bench onto centre in hope to provide some more speed and defensive pressure on the Lightning attackers. The Firebirds moved better, with Kim Jenner and Hinchliffe in the defensive circle, but Lightning’s Proscovia was still too good under the net, only missing one goal in the quarter following a 17/17 first quarter.

Often going under the radar, Madeline McAuliffe shone for the Lightning pairing well with Langman to effectively slow down the Firebirds mid-court. 11 goals down at half-time, the Firebirds swung momentum their way in the final minute of the first half with a clever pick up from Mahalia Cassidy quickly transitioning into a goal further down the court.

They carried that momentum into the third quarter, taking a risk that threw the Lightning off their game and stole a bonus point in doing so.

Firebirds’ shooter Romelda Aiken was moved into goal keeper as the Firebirds tried to find an answer to the Lightning’s Proscovia. Aiken appeared uncomfortable at first, but the switch worked well for the Firebirds. The move altered the dynamic of the Lightning’s attack as they slowed down, appearing unsure of where to place the ball. The defensive pressure from Aiken also seemed to throw Lightning’s goal attack Steph Wood who uncharacteristically only scored 3/8 of her goal attempts.

With Aiken playing in defence, the Firebirds brought Amy Sommerville on in goal shooter. Sommerville scored five from six of her goal attempts during the quarter proving she is a viable option in the Firebirds attack end.

Alongside Sommerville, Gretel Tippett shot 12/12 in the third quarter, her largest haul for the match. Tippett’s accuracy carried on from earlier quarters and went straight through to the last as she finished the match on a perfect 100%. Tippett’s work rate was impeccable doing a wealth of work to bring the ball down the court and recording a huge 40 goals for the match.

The Lightning returned to the court in fourth quarter, much more settled than the previous one. Despite the Firebirds having pulled back the margin to only nine goals, the Lightning were able to stretch it back out. The Sunshine Coast blitzed down the court with strong transitions making it easy to regain control against a Firebirds side who appeared to be tiring after a strong third quarter.

Proscovia backed herself under the post in her first full four-quarter performance of the season and was named Player of the Match, having racked up 116.5 Nissan NetPoints.

The match highlighted the youthfulness of the Firebirds’ defence and showcased the Lightning as serious finals contenders once again.

The Firebirds will face an in-form Giants next, while the Lightning will be looking to deliver the New South Wales Swifts their first loss of the season this weekend.

STARTING LINE-UPS:

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

GS | Peace Proscovia GA | Steph Wood WA | Laura Scherian C | Laura Langman WD | Madeline McAuliffe GD | Karla Pretorius GK | Phumza Maweni

Queensland Firebirds:

GS | Romelda Aiken GA | Gretel Tippett WA | Caitlyn Nevins C | Mahalia Cassidy WD | Tara Hinchliffe GD | Kim Jenner GK | Laura Clemesha

Originally published for Netball Draft Central

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