It was game on last Sunday in a ‘Do or Die’ thriller in Hamilton, New Zealand.
In front of a sell out crowd of 4269, the defending Trans-Tasman league champions, the Kia Magic were all set to defend their title with a win against the Queensland Firebirds.
However, the Firebirds were not letting the chance to play for the Trans-Tasman cup slip through their fingers that easily.
The Firebirds came out hard and forced the home side to fight for their first goal, with the Magic only putting the ball through the net once after the first 5 minutes of play.
Their dominance over the former champions continued throughout the first quarter, with the scoreboard reading 13-8 in favour of the Firebirds going into the first break.
The second quarter saw the Magic out to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd, relying heavily on their shooters Irene Van Dyk and Ellen Halpenny to convert their turnovers and centre pass feeds into goals.
The shooters sparked a comeback for the Magic, allowing the home side to decrease their opponent’s lead to just one point, tightening scores to 25-24 at the half-time break.
With the home crowd behind them, the Kia Magic took the court in the third quarter with more determination, increasing their intensity in an effort to outplay their opponents.
Despite this, the Firebirds never let their guard down, with key players such as Natalie Medhurst and Captain Laura Geitz instrumental in extending their team’s lead in the third quarter to 41-36.
The last quarter was set to be a fierce showdown, with both teams out to gain a spot in the preliminary final against the losing team from the Melbourne Vixens and Adelaide Thunderbirds game.
But the deficit was too great for the reigning champions to overcome, with the Firebirds winning convincingly, 49-39.
The win was made even more momentous for the Firebirds, with ‘superstar’ shooter Romelda Aiken becoming the first player to surpass 3000 goals in the ANZ Championship competition.
The loss came as even more of a disappointment for the Kia Magic, as it sees the resignation of their much-loved coach, Noeline Taurua.
Taurua had this to say about the Firebirds performance on Sunday.
” I thought they were very impressive,” Magic’s coach said.
“They were tough not only physically, but attitude wise, in the head.”
The Firebirds will need to take this attitude into their match this Sunday at Melbourne’s State Netball and Hockey Centre against the second placed Vixens.
Firebirds’ veteran captain, Laura Geitz is quietly confident about the upcoming game.
” We’re really looking forward to heading to Melbourne,” Geitz said.
“We’ve had a good record against them (Vixens) this season and we absolutely believe now we can really be in that Grand Final.”
The winner this Sunday will go on to play the grand final against the Adelaide Thunderbirds in South Australia to fight for the Trans-Tasman Championship.
Written by Liz Mason