Firebirds’ finals hopes fizzling out
THE Firebirds' finals aspirations are already hanging by a thread after a 69-61 loss at the hands of the awakening Giants at the Queensland State Netball Centre on Sunday.
Queensland are still winless after four rounds with three losses and a draw to be second-last on the Super Netball ladder.
The one-time perennial finals powerhouse is not used to occupying a lowly spot in the competition's cellar so it is very much time to get a wriggle on.
The Giants won all four quarters Sunday to leave the home side emptied handed and desperately searching for a way to get their season back on track.
The Melbourne Vixens missed last year's finals after having six losses so the Firebirds need to walk the tightrope for the rest of the 2019 campaign to qualify for the top four.
After starting the season as premiership favourites, the Giants dropped their opening two matches but have bounced back strongly with victories over Collingwood and Queensland.
Caitlin Bassett finished with a game-high 50 goals for the Giants while the shining light for the Firebirds was again goal attack Gretel Tippett who was unstoppable at the attack end with 41 goals from 41 attempts.
Romelda Aiken had an unhappy night in her return as a full-time goal shooter with 20 goals from 28 attempts for the Firebirds who had a clumsy 24 turnovers for the match.
The match ebbed and flowed in the third term but the Giants were able to increase their lead to seven goals at the last change and bank their third bonus point of the day.
The Giants seized control in the second quarter, scoring the first six goals of the term.
They extended their cushion to eight goals before the Firebirds were sparked by a Mahalia Cassidy deflection that helped the home side cut the margin to just three.
However, another Firebirds turnover allowed the visitors to steady and take a 33-28 lead into halftime.
After an action-packed and scrappy opening quarter, the Giants grabbed the bonus point and a slender buffer with a 15-14 advantage at the first break.
The teams were guilty of a combined 15 turnovers in the first term as the momentum swung back and forth to whoever was able to hang on to the ball.
Tippett stood tall for the home side with a perfect six goals from six attempts while Aiken had her struggles with eight goals from 13 attempts including one airball from close range.
The Firebirds briefly replaced captain Gabi Simpson late in the quarter with Maddi Hinchliffe - the twin sister of Queensland goalkeeper Tara - getting her first Super Netball cap.
Simpson was on restricted minutes as she overcomes a groin injury that kept her out of the Round 3 loss to Sunshine Coast.