ANZ CHAMPIONSHIP 2008-20162021-10-27T09:29:01+10:00
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  • Avatar photoIan Harkin
      Post count: 22046

      From YouTube user Tamati Milner:


      Avatar photoIan Harkin
        Post count: 22046

        2011 saw a tightening of the import rules for the ANZ Championship. Instead of the confusion and unevenness of previous seasons, from 2011, the rule was definite – each team could have one player classified as an import and no more. This meant some high-profile moves, most especially Geva Mentor moving to Vixens, as Thunderbirds preferred to keep Jamaican shooter Carla Borrego.

        With a World Championships in Singapore in mind, the competition was condensed into 12 weeks with teams playing double-header weekends. 2011 was also the year that Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Apart from the tragic loss of life and the devastation caused to the city, the quake also badly disrupted Tactix’s season with two of their home games having to be played at the opposition’s venue.

        After finishing just outside the finals in the previous two seasons, the Queensland Firebirds put it all together in 2011 and went through the entire season undefeated. Even losing their captain Lauren Nourse to injury, didn’t halt their run. Laura Geitz took over the reins and led the team to victory over Northern Mystics in the grand final. Another high-profile player to succumb to injury was Sharelle McMahon. Both she and Nourse had to miss the World Championships.



        Queensland Firebirds
        ADAMS, Candace
        AIKEN, Romelda
        GEITZ, Laura
        MACLEOD, Elissa
        MCMENIMAN, Clare
        MEDHURST, Natalie
        NOURSE, Lauren (capt)
        PITMAN, Chelsea
        RUSSELL, Jacqui
        STEEL, Amy
        TROMPF, Kierra
        WELLS, Ameliaranne
        * LETTON, April (Injury Replacement Player)
        Coach: Roselee Jencke

        New South Wales Swifts
        BRAZILL, Ashleigh
        BULLEY, Rebecca
        COX, Catherine (capt)
        DZIWOKI, Carla
        GERRARD, Mo’onia
        GREEN, Kimberlee
        MKOLOMA, Sonia
        PRATLEY, Susan
        SMITH, Kimberley
        TAIRI, Courtney
        WARE, Vanessa
        WILD, Amorette
        Coach: Julie Fitzgerald

        Melbourne Vixens
        BEVERIDGE, Kate
        BROWNE, Madison
        CALDWELL, Tegan
        CHATFIELD, Bianca (co-capt)
        CORLETTO, Julie
        HALLINAN, Renae
        KNOTT, Kathleen
        MCMAHON, Sharelle (co-capt)
        MENTOR, Geva
        TREGEAR, Chelsey
        WALL, Sarah
        WILSON, Micaela
        * EAGLAND, Shannon (Injury Replacement Player)
        * PUOPOLO, Stephanie (Injury Replacement Player)
        Coach: Julie Hoornweg

        Adelaide Thunderbirds
        BEATON, Emily
        BEATON, Georgia
        BELL, Erin
        BORREGO, Carla
        GITEAU, Bianca
        KEENE, Jasmine
        LAYTON, Sharni
        PROUD, Madeleine
        RICHARDS, Kara
        SHIMMIN, Kate
        SUTTON, Joanne
        VON BERTOUCH, Natalie (capt)
        Coach: Jane Woodlands-Thompson

        West Coast Fever
        AGBEZE, Ama
        BASSETT, Caitlin
        BOLTON, Shae
        BRUCE, Courtney
        CURRAN, Johannah (capt)
        EBBOTT, Sarah
        FUHRMANN, Susan
        GILMORE, Andrea
        HOWARD, Ashlee
        JANZ, Alicia
        JANZ, Josie
        SHOARD, Leah
        Coach: Jane Searle

        Northern Mystics
        CULLEN, Kayla
        DEHN, Megan
        GEORGE, Temepara (capt)
        HENRY, Joline
        LATU, Cathrine
        MCALISTER, Kayla
        MES, Bailey
        MOUKDS, Jessica
        RASMUSSEN, Grace
        RASMUSSEN, Rachel
        SCARLETT, Anna
        TUTAIA, Maria
        Coach: Debbie Fuller

        Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
        GUPWELL, Jamilah
        LANGMAN, Laura (capt)
        MIKAERE, Erena
        NAOUPU, Julianna
        SCHOLZ, Peta
        SOLIA, Frances
        TOD, Jodi
        TUKI, Jess
        VAN DYK, Irene
        WALL, Arahi
        WILLIAMS, Casey
        Coach: Noeline Taurua

        Central Pulse
        AMARU-TIBBLE, Te Amo
        BELLRINGER, Amber
        CASSIDY, Alanah
        GRANT, Katrina (capt)
        LEES, Camilla
        LICHTWARK, Cushla
        MANU, Bessie
        MILNER-OLSEN, Ngarama
        PRITCHARD, Daya
        SMITH, Victoria
        THWAITES, Caitlin
        TOPIA, Jade
        Coach: Yvette McCausland-Durie

        Canterbury Tactix
        BOWDEN, Maree (capt)
        EVERING, Kasey
        FINCH, Phillipa
        GALVAN, Anna
        HALPENNY, Ellen
        HIJIWAI, Kiley
        KIGHT, Charlotte
        POFF, Hannah
        PULU, Finau
        THOMPSON, Anna
        TRIP, Jo
        WILKINS, Donna
        Coach: Helen Mahon-Stroud

        Southern Steel
        BURGESS, Erika
        CHOKLJAT, Natasha
        DE BRUIN, Leana
        FENWICK, Sophia
        FREW, Wendy (co-capt)
        GRIFFIN, Paula
        LEOTA, Liana (co-capt)
        SAUNDERS, Hayley
        SCANLAN, Sheryl
        SELBY-RICKIT, Te Huinga Reo
        SELBY-RICKIT, Te Paea
        WIPIITI, Daneka
        Coach: Robyn Broughton


        Gerrard hails return to Swifts

        The New South Wales Swifts have confirmed the return of drawcard Mo’onia Gerrard for the 2011 Trans-Tasman Championship season and the ferocious defender is excited to back in her “Manly hood”. Gerrard said she was glad to be back in her home state with her family, including partner, New South Wales Waratahs rugby player Dave Dennis. “It’s an exciting time for me, I guess, to back at home amongst familiar faces and scenery – that’s pretty exciting for me,” the netball pin-up said.

        As well as her sporting endeavours, entrepreneurial pursuits have also brought Gerrard back to Sydney. “On top of that I have a small (children’s clothing) business… one of the main reasons I wanted to come back,” the 29-year-old said. Gerrard played with the Swifts from 2003-07 and it is no coincidence they won three premierships in that time. She then left Sydney for Adelaide in 2007 and was integral the Thunderbirds’ upset of the Swifts in this year’s preliminary final on the way to securing the title. The Swifts had won every game in 2010 until losing to the Thunderbirds.

        Gerrard said she was unperturbed about playing with or against old team-mates, saying on the court it was business as usual. “I’ve been with other teams since ’08… so whoever I’m playing with doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. Swifts coach Julie Fitzgerald said she was excited to have Gerrard back in her home state. “Mo’onia has been one of the larger than life figures in the Netball New South Wales community and it’s a delight to have her back playing for the Swifts,” Fitzgerald said. With the Commonwealth Games in Delhi this October, the modest Gerrard is downplaying her certain call up for the Diamonds. “I’m hoping to get into the twelves,” she said. “Hopefully I will be hearing my name being called out.”


        Wilkins reignites career with Canterbury Tactix

        Former international Donna Wilkins will return to top-level netball after signing to play for Canterbury Tactix in next year’s transtasman league. The 32-year-old goal shoot last played in the league for Southern Steel last year before sitting out this season and giving birth last month to her second child. A veteran of 64 tests, Wilkins first appeared at provincial level for Canterbury 16 years ago.

        A dual international, she also represented her country at basketball, appearing at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games, as well as playing for the Connecticut Suns in the WNBA in the United States in 2006. “It’s nice to come back to Canterbury to where my netball career started,” Wilkins said. “I’m very keen to play in a team where I believe I can make a difference while sharing my knowledge with such talented young players.”

        Wilkins, who lives on a farm in northern Southland, said there would be plenty of babysitters in Christchurch. “I have a strong base of family and friends in the city, which is awesome.” Tactix coach Helen Mahon-Stroud said Wilkins would have a significant influence on her team. “While her presence on the court will be invaluable, I think her influence outside match day will be equally important.”


        Mystics pull off a coup with newest recruit
        Dana Johannsen

        The Northern Mystics have sprung a late surprise in their line-up for next season, with former Australian shooter Megan Dehn set to be named in the Auckland squad when the teams are released today. Dehn, who has played for the Southern Steel for the past three seasons, had hoped to return to Invercargill next year but a failed citizenship bid ended her chances. The Steel had signed Natasha Chokljat from the Melbourne Vixens and under the rules could not have two ineligible players on their books.

        The crafty Australian shooter was going through the process of getting citizenship, but failed to meet the residency requirements. Sensing an opening, the Mystics pounced and were able to secure the veteran for what is expected to be her final season in the transtasman league. Dehn said after failing to secure her residency she was considering retiring, but a strong sales pitch from Mystics captain Temepara George convinced her to make the move to Auckland for one last hurrah. “Temepara had a good chat with me and she can be very persuasive.”

        Dehn formed a friendship with George when the pair played together in the now defunct Northern Force franchise in the old domestic league. “I started my career over there in Auckland, so it’ll be nice to finish off with them. “Because I worked over there for that year and a half I was there, I have quite a lot of friends in Auckland, so it’s kind of not an issue to move away from home, it’s somewhere I have a lot of ties to already.”

        While the inclusion of Dehn is a huge shot in the arm for the Mystics campaign, Silver Ferns management might not be quite so overjoyed with the announcement. With the 36-year-old able to cover both shooting positions as well as wing attack, any court time she receives will come at the expense of test incumbents Maria Tutaia and Grace Rasmussen, or Fern-in-waiting Cathrine Latu. But Mystics coach Debbie Fuller stressed Dehn is there to provide back-up from the bench and to offer versatility – similar to the role Jenny-May Coffin, now the Mystics assistant coach, provided last season.

        “It is a really tough competition, so you need to assemble a deep squad. Having somebody like Megan who is experienced and offers a different approach to the attacking game I think will provide an element of unpredictability for our team,” said Fuller. The final place in the Mystics squad will be filled by Auckland Waitakere midcourter Kayla McAlister, younger sister of All Black Luke. McAlister, who as a teenager played for the Western Flyers in the National Bank Cup, has been a training partner with the Mystics for the past year.

        The Vixens have also pulled off a big coup at the 11th hour, signing England defender and star of the Adelaide Thunderbirds for the past three seasons, Geva Mentor. The new eligibility rules prevented the Thunderbirds from keeping both Jamaican shooter Carla Borrego and Mentor on their books. Joining Mentor in returning to the league is her defensive partner in the national side, Sonia Mkoloma (NSW Swifts) – a move that could signal the end of their international careers.

        In a statement released yesterday, England Netball confirmed the star duo’s decision means they will be ineligible for selection in next year’s world championships in Singapore. England Netball claims the national squad collectively agreed two years ago that they would all remain in Britain in 2011 to play in the Superleague to prioritise England’s preparations.

        Avatar photoIan Harkin
          Post count: 22046

          Round 1
          Sun 13 Feb – New South Wales Swifts 60–40 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Mon 14 Feb – Northern Mystics 51–34 Southern Steel

          Round 2
          Sat 19 Feb – Central Pulse 44–54 Northern Mystics
          Sun 20 Feb – Adelaide Thunderbirds 47–65 Melbourne Vixens
          Sun 20 Feb – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 51–36 Southern Steel
          Mon 21 Feb – Canterbury Tactix 48–54 West Coast Fever
          Mon 21 Feb – Queensland Firebirds 51–48 New South Wales Swifts

          Round 3
          Thu 24 Feb – Northern Mystics 39–45 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
          Thu 24 Feb – West Coast Fever 53–72 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Sat 26 Feb – Central Pulse 43–45 Southern Steel
          Sat 26 Feb – Queensland Firebirds 64–41 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Sun 27 Feb – Canterbury Tactix v Northern Mystics *
          Sun 27 Feb – New South Wales Swifts 45–49 Melbourne Vixens
          Mon 28 Feb – Central Pulse 44–46 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
          Mon 28 Feb – West Coast Fever 38–62 Queensland Firebirds
          * Postponed to Round 9


          Tactix-Mystics postponed due to earthquake

          The trans-Tasman netball league match between the Canterbury Tactix and Northern Mystics that was scheduled to be played at Christchurch on Sunday has been postponed following today’s devastating 6.3 earthquake. League organisers and Netball New Zealand (NNZ) will now work through arrangements to reschedule the game for a later date. An announcement will be made as soon as details have been confirmed.

          League general manager Anthony Everard and NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle jointly expressed their deepest sympathy to the Canterbury community, with 65 people having been confirmed dead and the death toll expected to rise as rescuers dig deeper into the inner city rubble.


          Round 4
          Sat 5 Mar – Adelaide Thunderbirds 51–41 Central Pulse
          Sun 6 Mar – Queensland Firebirds 51–36 Southern Steel
          Sun 6 Mar – Northern Mystics 56-54 Melbourne Vixens
          Mon 7 Mar – Canterbury Tactix 56–63 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic *
          Mon 7 Mar – New South Wales Swifts 55–51 West Coast Fever
          * Tactix home game but played in Magic’s venue

          Round 5
          Sat 12 Mar – Melbourne Vixens 70–39 West Coast Fever
          Sun 13 Mar – Adelaide Thunderbirds 42–64 Queensland Firebirds
          Sun 13 Mar – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 46–47 Northern Mystics
          Mon 14 Mar – Southern Steel 50–44 Central Pulse
          Mon 14 Mar – New South Wales Swifts 54–45 Canterbury Tactix

          Round 6
          Thu 17 Mar – West Coast Fever 49–70 New South Wales Swifts
          Sat 19 Mar – West Coast Fever 50–47 Southern Steel
          Sun 20 Mar – New South Wales Swifts 53–57 Queensland Firebirds
          Sun 20 Mar – Central Pulse 46–43 Canterbury Tactix
          Mon 21 Mar – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 53–41 Melbourne Vixens
          Mon 21 Mar – Adelaide Thunderbirds 57–55 Northern Mystics

          Round 7 (Rivalry Round)
          Sat 26 Mar – Northern Mystics 52–61 Queensland Firebirds
          Sun 27 Mar – Melbourne Vixens 65–50 Canterbury Tactix
          Sun 27 Mar – Central Pulse 43–48 New South Wales Swifts
          Mon 28 Mar – Southern Steel 52–48 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Mon 28 Mar – West Coast Fever 41–42 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

          Round 8
          Thu 31 Mar – Canterbury Tactix 49–44 Southern Steel
          Thu 31 Mar – Melbourne Vixens 42–52 Queensland Firebirds
          Sat 2 Apr – Northern Mystics 61–48 Central Pulse
          Sun 3 Apr – Melbourne Vixens 42–33 Southern Steel
          Sun 3 Apr – Canterbury Tactix 56–59 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Mon 4 Apr – Central Pulse 63–61 West Coast Fever
          Mon 4 Apr – Queensland Firebirds 53–49 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic


          McMahon injured in Vixens loss

          The playing future of Australian netball captain Sharelle McMahon is in doubt, after the 118 Test veteran appeared to rupture her left Achilles tendon in a trans-Tasman competition match between Melbourne and Queensland on Thursday night. With netball’s world championships to be held in Singapore in July, the injury is a massive blow to Australia’s hopes of retaining the title. McMahon, 33, has captained Australia since 2008 and has been the co-captain of the Vixens since their inception in the trans-Tasman competition in the same year.

          With just under three minutes left in the first half, McMahon appeared to be running to position at the top of the Vixens’ circle, when she fell to the ground grabbing at her left ankle. She was immediately carried from the court and continued to receive treatment. Vixens physiotherapist Steve Hawkins could not confirm the extent of damage immediately after the match. “We have had two physios and two doctors look at it and everyone is of the same opinion, that we can’t be definite at the moment,” he said.

          Vixens coach Julie Hoornweg admitted that if scans showed a rupture in the Achilles it would be difficult for McMahon to return to the highest levels of the game. “But we don’t know yet, we will just wait and see,” she said. With the season condensed because of the world championships, the Vixens are in the middle of an intense stretch that sees them play three games in just eight days. Hoornweg was critical of the fixture. “That is hard, they are bruising encounters out there,” she said. “We can’t ask these athletes to play that many games, you wouldn’t ask elite footballers to front up and play three matches in eight days, so why would you ask (a netballer)?”

          McMahon, who will turn 34 in August, has been Australia’s leading goal shooter since first representing her country at the 1998 world championships in Christchurch. She led Australia to the silver medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi. McMahon had made 10 of her 13 shots before checking out, and was replaced by Kathleen Knott (16/19) in the 52-42 loss. It was the second major injury in the match for the Vixens. During the warm-up McMahon’s usual replacement Tegan Caldwell injured her ankle and was forced to withdraw from the team.

          The Firebirds remain undefeated after eight games this season and lead the competition, while the Vixens are clinging to fourth spot on goal difference. Queensland was led to victory by international stars Romelda Aiken (31/38) and Natalie Medhurst (21/27) up front. The Firebirds finally return to Brisbane on Monday night for a much-anticipated match against New Zealand’s top team, the Magic. “It was a tough win and we did it hard. The Vixens really took it right up to us and we had to work for every ball and every opportunity that we got,” Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke said.


          Round 9
          Thu 7 Apr – Canterbury Tactix 45–58 Northern Mystics *
          Sat 9 Apr – Southern Steel 49–40 Canterbury Tactix
          Sun 10 Apr – Melbourne Vixens 55–53 Adelaide Thunderbirds
          Sun 10 Apr – Central Pulse 44–61 Queensland Firebirds
          Mon 11 Apr – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 46–53 New South Wales Swifts
          Mon 11 Apr – West Coast Fever 54–56 Northern Mystics
          * Tactix home game but played in Mystics’ venue


          Firebirds alight for fallen skipper
          Alex Murdoch

          “LET’S do it for Loz,” the Firebirds vowed last night, after captain Lauren Nourse was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Queensland coach Roselee Jencke said the team had been devastated when scans yesterday confirmed Nourse had suffered a tear in her anterior cruciate ligament. But, she said, instead of crushing the side’s spirit, Nourse’s loss had made the Firebirds more determined to win the ANZ Championship. “Yes, we have been dealt a huge blow but I have every confidence in the team’s ability to step up and do the job and more,” Jencke said.

          Firebirds high-performance manager Brian Hopley agreed, suggesting this was not the same team that had been knocked for six by the loss of Sarah Wall to the same injury in the same round last year. Nourse went down clutching her left knee in the second quarter of the match against Kiwi team Central Pulse in Porirua on Sunday night. The injury rules her out for the world championships in Singapore in July.

          The captain, who specialises as centre and wing attack, is the second Australian star to succumb to injury in the condensed new championship format after Vixens captain Sharelle McMahon ruptured her achilles tendon. Jencke said the tight-knit team would help keep the momentum going. “Loz has been having a superb season but Lis (Elissa Macloud) came on last night and did a good job,” she said. “It’s a positive step knowing we’ve still got a strong line-up that’s capable of winning.”


          Round 10
          Thu 14 Apr – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 53–49 Canterbury Tactix
          Thu 14 Apr – Queensland Firebirds 57–36 Melbourne Vixens
          Sat 16 Apr – Adelaide Thunderbirds 57–53 New South Wales Swifts
          Sun 17 Apr – West Coast Fever 38–54 Melbourne Vixens
          Sun 17 Apr – Southern Steel 33–38 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
          Mon 18 Apr – Canterbury Tactix 45–47 Central Pulse
          Mon 18 Apr – New South Wales Swifts 53–46 Northern Mystics

          Round 11
          Thu 21 Apr – Southern Steel 39–40 New South Wales Swifts
          Sat 23 Apr – Melbourne Vixens 58–42 Central Pulse
          Sun 24 Apr – Adelaide Thunderbirds 36–55 Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
          Sun 24 Apr – Northern Mystics 62–43 Canterbury Tactix
          Mon 25 Apr – Queensland Firebirds 56–54 West Coast Fever

          Round 12
          Sat 30 Apr – Canterbury Tactix 52–69 Queensland Firebirds
          Sun 1 May – Melbourne Vixens 33–45 New South Wales Swifts
          Sun 1 May – Southern Steel 35–47 Northern Mystics
          Mon 2 May – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 60–50 Central Pulse
          Mon 2 May – Adelaide Thunderbirds 59–64 West Coast Fever


          Firebirds finish campaign undefeated

          Queensland Firebirds completed a regular-season sweep of the trans-Tasman netball league on Saturday but questions linger about their title credentials without skipper Lauren Nourse. Despite icing their unbeaten record in Christchurch, the Firebirds were stretched by last-placed Canterbury Tactix before running away in the second half to win 69-52.

          The last-round victory marks the Brisbane-based team as only the second in the four-year history of the trans-Tasman championship to go through the preliminary rounds undefeated. But the Queenslanders are wary of repeating the deflating efforts of the New South Wales Swifts who last year enjoyed a perfect regular season before getting knocked in the finals in straight sets.

          Vulnerable without centre Nourse, they were fortunate not to fall to the upset of the season against ninth-placed West Coast (56-54) on Monday night, and also started poorly against the Tactix who led for most of the first quarter at Canterbury Arena.

          The absence of their captain, sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, was again highly noticeable as the Firebirds committed a litany of mid-court turnovers but were saved by inaccurate shooting by the Tactix goalers (75 per cent). “In the first quarter we got eight or nine balls off them but we just couldn’t convert them at the other end,” Tactix coach Helen Mahon-Stroud said.

          Coach Roselee Jencke experimented with Jacqui Russell at centre for the first term but replaced her with Elissa MacLeod with the scores deadlocked at 15-all and the former Vixen had more success. Wing attack Chelsea Pitman endured a nervous start against her former team, giving up three early turnovers, before warming to the task as the Firebirds took a 33-27 half-time lead. It was the class of star shooters Romelda Aiken, who finished with 50 goals at 96 per cent, and Natalie Medhurst (19 at 93), and the defence of stand-in skipper Laura Geitz which ultimately saw the competition leaders dominate the second half.

          After finishing a heart-breaking fifth for the previous three seasons, Queensland can book a home grand final with victory in next weekend’s major semi-final. “We’re absolutely ecstatic and couldn’t wish for any more,” Geitz said. “It’s amazing but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got some tough games coming up.” The Firebirds will likely play New Zealand’s best side, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, on the Gold Coast next Sunday or Monday.



          ( Team … Pts … % )
          1 . Firebirds . 26pts . 129.13%
          2 . Magic . . . . 20pts . 111.94%
          3 . Swifts . . . . 18pts . 111.72%
          4 . Mystics . .. 18pts . 110.50%

          5 . Vixens . . .. 16pts . 108.85%
          6 . T’birds . . . 10pts . . 89.82%
          7 . Steel . . . . .. 8pts . . 89.73%
          8 . Pulse . . . . . 6pts . . 87.70%
          9 . Fever . . . . . 6pts . . 85.68%
          10. Tactix . . . . 2pts . . 85.89%

          Avatar photoIan Harkin
            Post count: 22046

            MINOR SEMI-FINAL
            Sun 8 May

            Swifts 44 lost to Mystics 49

            Cox 28/36 (78%)
            Wild 8/8 (100%)
            Pratley 8/10 (80%)
            TOTAL 44/54 (82%)

            Latu 25/27 (93%)
            Tutaia 24/31 (77%)
            TOTAL 49/58 (85%)


            ANZ Championship

            Playing in their first Finals Series, the LG Mystics continued to rewrite the records when they beat NSW Swifts 49-44 in the sudden-death minor semi-final in Sydney today. The visitors couldn’t have picked a better time to register just their second win in Australia as they controlled the Minor Semi-Final for almost the entire match. Finishing the regular season in third place, Swifts certainly had their opportunities but lacked consistency and execution against the Mystics who hardly put a foot wrong. Finishing in fourth place, the underdog Mystics produced a mostly flawless and methodical team effort on the back of a smothering defensive outing, control on attack and the brilliant shooting of Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu.

            There were no surprises in either starting line-up as the visitors edged their way to the lead after a succession of ebbs and flows during the opening 15 minutes. The match started at a cracking pace, the home team enjoying the better start with captain Catherine Cox’s shooting radar on target as the Swifts took an early three-goal lead. Both teams showed great ball movement through court, the Mystics helped by the play of Tutaia and Latu, who showed pin-point accuracy under the hoop.

            Mystics defenders Anna Scarlett and talented teenager Kayla Cullen put the squeeze on Cox and Susan Pratley as the home team’s accuracy went off the boil. Sitting on 94 percent shooting accuracy compared to Swifts’ 85 percent Mystics pocketed a 15-11 lead heading into the first break.

            It was all Mystics on the resumption, the visitors’ exploits on defence making life extra difficult for the Swifts’ attackers. Visiting captain Temepara George was in the thick of action, teaming expertly with Joline Henry on the edge of the circle to cut the supply of ball to Cox and Pratley. On attack, she was the guiding influence as the visitors made every post a winner, pouncing on opportunities presented by Swifts turnovers. Tutaia and Latu received a slick service from George and Megan Dehn, the pair in total control of the circle with an almost faultless first half.

            Swifts had all sorts of trouble penetrating the midcourt, putting extra pressure on Pratley and Cox as their ball supply dried up while the visitors remained a model of calm and composure, executing with precision as they built into a handy 28-20 halftime lead.

            Swifts made wholesale changes for the second half in a desperate bid to improve their drive on attack and garner some momentum. Amy Wild replaced Pratley at goal attack, Mo’onia Gerrard took over from Rebecca Bulley at goal defence and Kim Smith took over the wing defence bib.

            Initially, the changes had little effect, Mystics undeterred as their almost impenetrable zone defence paid dividends and the accuracy of Tutaia and Latu helped stretch the lead out to 10. However, Swifts, on the back of a Gerrard steal rebounded back to life as the intensity lifted. Showing more movement on attack, the home team had the better of the quarter, as they reeled the deficit back to four but a late burst left the Mystics in the ascendancy with a 38-31 lead heading down the home straight.

            Swifts made the best of starts in a willing final quarter, narrowing the gap to five and threatening on a number of occasions but ultimately were unable to break the efficiency and finishing of the well-drilled Mystics team.


            MAJOR SEMI-FINAL
            Mon 9 May

            Firebirds 50 def Magic 39

            Aiken 30/33 (91%)
            Medhurst 20/24 (83%)
            TOTAL 50/57 (88%)

            van Dyk 17/20 (85%)
            Gupwell 16/18 (89%)
            Naoupu 6/7 (86%)
            TOTAL 39/45 (87%)


            ANZ Championship

            Upholding their fantastic unbeaten run of 2011, the Queensland Firebirds have stormed into the Grand Final of the ANZ Championship with an all-encompassing 50-39 victory over the First Windows Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in the Gold Coast tonight. The Firebirds’ confidence and composure belied the fact that this is their first appearance in the ANZ Finals Series. From goal keep Laura Geitz shutting down the Magic attack, through to Romelda Aiken at ease under the goal post, the Queenslanders could hardly be faulted in their full-hearted effort across the court.

            The Magic, missing injured wing defence Peta Scholz, showed fleeting signs of the form which carried them into the major semi, and will get a second chance to resolve their feeding glitches against fellow Kiwi team, the LG Mystics, in the preliminary final. After the game, Geitz said the Firebirds couldn’t have wished for anything more, and the strong start they had planned on ultimately cemented the win.

            There were no surprises in the intense, but anxious start from both sides. The Magic got the first points on the board and looked the hungrier team, with two key intercepts from their attackers. But neither team appeared confident with their shots, and after five minutes only four goals were notched on the scoreboard – most of them to the Firebirds’ credit. From there, the Firebirds ramped up their defensive effort with Clare McMeniman effectively smothering Magic goal attack Julianna Naoupu, and goal keep Laura Geitz repeatedly snatching ball destined for Irene van Dyk, who was forced to come hunting out of the circle.

            For the first quarter there was realistically only one shooter in the match, with Firebirds goal attack Natalie Medhurst dominating from the top of the circle with nine decisive shots. The Magic became more at home as the quarter progressed, cutting the difference from seven to four at close of the first break, but still trailing 12-8. In an effort to free up van Dyk, Magic coach Noeline Taurua moved her kingpin out to goal attack. But immediately McMeniman and Geitz flummoxed the rejigged attack, and the Firebirds launched a forceful new assault.

            The long bombs into Romelda Aiken came into the play, drilled in expertly by Chelsea Pitman and Medhurst, and the gap opened to double figures. In the final five minutes of the half, the Magic made a desperate attempt to get back on track moving van Dyk back into the driving seat, supported by a new goal attack in Jamilah Gupwell; and switching Casey Williams to goal keep to sit on Aiken, joined by Jodi Tod in the defensive circle. Gupwell added four from four attempts to bolster the Magic’s confidence, but still the Firebirds held the upperhand going into the second half, ahead 23-16.

            The changes didn’t end there: Frances Solia’s introduction at wing attack for the Magic still could not solve their feeding woes, and little could be done to stop Firebirds wing defence Keirra Trompf’s sustained control of the midcourt. Incredibly, van Dyk – one of the most prolific shooters in the league – was restricted to just seven goals for three quarters of the match, unable to break from the shackles of a storming Geitz.

            Going into the final quarter with their largest advantage of the match, up 39-26, the Firebirds took the opportunity to run a different defensive pattern with Amy Steel at goal defence. And it only went to prove that the Firebirds were in control throughout the court no matter what combination coach Rosalee Jencke put out there.


            Sun 15 May

            Magic 42 lost to Mystics 43

            van Dyk 26/27 (96%)
            Naoupu 15/20 (75%)
            Gupwell 1/3 (33%)
            TOTAL 42/50 (84%)

            Tutaia 28/30 (93%)
            Latu 15/17 (88%)
            TOTAL 43/47 (92%)


            ANZ Championship

            The LG Mystics sealed their first Grand Final appearance with a pulsating 43-42 win over First Windows Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in the Preliminary Final in Hamilton on Sunday. Contesting their first Finals Series, a big second quarter from the Mystics provided the impetus for the win. It was the only quarter the Mystics won as Magic kept coming back at them but superior shooting percentages, with Maria Tutaia having an outstanding game, proved the difference in the end. In the history of the competition, Mystics are the only team to have finished fourth in the regular season and advanced to the Grand Final where they will meet the unbeaten Queensland Firebirds, in Brisbane, next Sunday.

            Magic welcomed back hard-working wing defence Peta Scholz, the Australian import being sidelined for the past two weeks with a knee in jury while Frances Solia, who had much of her season derailed by illness got the nod at wing attack. There were no surprises from the Mystics, talented teenager Kayla Cullen taking her place at goal defence after being troubled by a calf injury.

            Magic made a perfect start playing patient, error-free netball as they secured the first three goals. Magic’s back three of Casey Williams, Jodi Tod and Scholz were impressive in slowing down the Mystics on attack. Threatening goal shoot Cathrine Latu was well-contained, having to wait 7-1/2 minutes before scoring her first goal but Tutaia picked up the slack, her radar well-honed to keep the visitors in touch. At the other end, goal attack Julianna Naoupu provided impetus in the playmaking role for shooter Irene van Dyk, who was all poise under the hoop as Magic went to a 13-9 first quarter lead.

            With irrepressible captain Temepara George leading the charge, Mystics lifted their intent on the resumption, scoring four goals on the trot to draw within one. Sparkling play on attack and slick interplay under the hoop helped them hit the lead for the first time with Tutaia’s finishing from long range pivotal. Things became more difficult for Magic as they struggled to penetrate the Mystics’ suffocating midcourt defensive wall. Jess Tuki replaced Solia in Magic’s attacking line as fortunes ebbed and flowed before Mystics grabbed the initiative. Showing more spark in their play, the visitors achieved a nine-goal turn-around as they went to the main break with a 25-20 lead.

            With Magic’s shooting falling away in the second quarter, Jamilah Gupwell replaced Naoupu for the second half as the home team stormed out of the blocks. The third quarter became a real battle of attrition, huge defensive pressure from both teams dictating the course of the match. Cullen and Anna Scarlett proved a real thorn for Magic’s shooters while Williams and Tod had their moments at the other end. Tutaia continued to be the main point of difference with an exemplary showing under the Mystics post before the home side staged a late quarter rally. An injured Gupwell did not last long with Naoupu re-entering the fray as strong contributions from Williams, Scholz and Laura Langman kept Magic in the frame, Mystics keeping their noses in front 35-31 heading down the home straight.

            In a last throw of the dice, Magic introduced teenaged defender Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick at goalkeeper with Williams going out to goal defence. The home team threw everything into a pulsating final quarter, slowly clawing back the deficit in a frantic and willing final quarter. Mystics did just enough to hold them out – a couple of crucial intercepts from the ever-prominent Cullen and Scarlett and the overall play from an impressive Tutaia sealing a spot in the Grand Final.

            Avatar photoIan Harkin
              Post count: 22046

              GRAND FINAL
              Sun 22 May
              Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

              FIREBIRDS 57 def MYSTICS 44
              (12-12, 26-24, 44-32, 57-44)

              GS Aiken
              GA Medhurst
              WA Pitman
              C Macleod
              WD Trompf
              GD McMeniman
              GK Geitz

              Start Q3 – Trompf off, Steel on at GD, McMeniman to WD

              Shooting stats
              Aiken 35/40 (88%)
              Medhurst 22/25 (88%)
              TOTAL 57/65 (88%)

              GS Latu
              GA Tutaia
              WA Dehn
              C George
              WD Henry
              GD Cullen
              GK Scarlett

              During Q3 – Cullen off, Rasmussen on at GK, Scarlett to GD
              During Q3 – Rasmussen off, Cullen on at GD, Scarlett to GK
              During Q4 – Cullen off, Rasmussen on at GK, Scarlett to GD

              Shooting stats
              Tutaia 23/31 (74%)
              Latu 21/21 (100%)
              TOTAL 44/52 (85%)

              Attendance: 3,541

              Umpires: Sharon Kelly (Aus), Mandy Nottingham (NZ), Reserve umpire: Rachael Ayre (Aus)

              ANZ Championship Awards:
              Grand Final MVP: Romelda Aiken (Firebirds)
              Season MVP: Leana de Bruin (Steel) and Nat Medhurst (Firebirds)

              Australian Netball Awards:
              Aust ANZC Player of the Year: Laura Geitz (Firebirds)
              Liz Ellis Diamond: Laura Geitz (Firebirds)

              ANZ Championship

              An explosive third quarter set the Mission Queensland Firebirds on the path to a history-making 57-44 win over the LG Mystics in the ANZ Championship Grand Final in Brisbane today. With both teams playing in their first Finals Series, Firebirds became the first team to go through the competition unbeaten while also becoming the fourth winner. The 13-goal winning margin was the largest in the history of the four-year competition. After a close and competitive first 30 minutes, a blockbusting second half by the home team put the seal on a dream season. Unrelenting defensive pressure and the shooting prowess of Romelda Aiken and Natalie Medhurst caught up with the Mystics, who had no answer during a rampant third quarter as the home team put their stamp on the match.

              Mystics recovered from a nervous start in a tight and pressure-filled opening stanza to set an appropriate stage for the occasion. Firebirds captain Laura Geitz, in defence, and towering shooter Aiken were prominent figures in the early stages. The athletic Geitz disrupted the Mystics’ attacking ball while Aiken propelled the home team to an early lead with her dominancy under the hoop. Mystics quickly regrouped, the patience of experienced midcourters Temepara George and Megan Dehn providing a steady supply of ball to accurate shooters Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia. Growing in confidence, Mystics level-pegged with the Firebirds as the teams went goal-for-goal, unable to be separated as they hit the first break at 12-all.

              The visitors made the best of starts on the resumption, a stanza which was highlighted by significant ebbs and flows between two willing combatants. Composed and calm on attack, Mystics bolted out to a three-goal lead on the back of strong shooting while defender Anna Scarlett pulled off a couple of her specialist shot deflections. Not to be outdone, Firebirds reeled in the deficit, the rapport between Medhurst and Aiken clicking up another gear as the home team regained the momentum. Firebirds held the initiative in the run to halftime, neither team giving an inch in an epic showdown, the home team holding on to a 26-24 lead at the main interval.

              A rearranged Firebirds defensive line with wing defence Keirra Trompf going to the bench, Clare McMeniman taking over on the wing and Amy Steel coming off the bench to goal defence coincided with a huge lift in intensity from the home team. With Medhurst leading the charge, the Firebirds’ attacking line was almost unstoppable. Playing near error-free netball, Medhurst and Aiken were all class as they took control to push the score out. Mystics lost their structure and fell away as they were left in chase mode.

              Steel and Geitz put the clamps on Tutaia and Latu, restricting the visiting shooters to just scraps as the score continued to balloon out for the home team on the back of an ever-building turnover rate. With one hand on the trophy, it was all Firebirds who outplayed the Mystics to the tune of 18-8 as they pushed out to a commanding 44-32 lead at three-quarter time. An even final quarter was of little consolation to the Mystics, the damage having already been done, leaving Firebirds deserving winners of the 2011 title.


              Scorching Firebirds surge to historic grand final victory
              Jim Morton

              The all-conquering Queensland Firebirds have created trans-Tasman netball league history by becoming the first team to win the competition undefeated. The Firebirds completed a perfect season with a record 57-44 grand final hiding over the Auckland-based Northern Mystics at Brisbane Convention Centre.

              Strong favourites to claim the title with their 15th straight win of the season, the Queenslanders were forced to dig deep in the first half with the visitors right in the fight just two goals down at halftime. But the Firebirds dominated the “premiership quarter” with an 18-8 third term, including a 12-2 run to stretch their lead from 31-28 to an unassailable 43-30 just before the last change.

              The final margin of 13 eclipsed the previous biggest grand final win, set by the Adelaide Thunderbirds last year against the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic (52-42). The scoreline belied the nature of the ultra-tense first-half battle with the Mystics leading for most of the second quarter as their defensive duo, Anna Scarlett and Kayla Cullen, frustrated Firebirds star shooter Romelda Aiken.

              But Aiken and joint competition MVP Natalie Medhurst dominated after the break as the Mystics pulled a selection gamble, replacing Cullen with Rachel Rasmussen and moving Scarlett to goal defence, which backfired. Cullen went off at 30-27 down. When she was reunited with Scarlett the score was 38-30. While Aiken finished with 35 goals and Medhurst 22, and the Firebirds dominated across the court, Firebirds captain Laura Geitz was again the star of the show.

              Goal keeper Geitz produced the first intercept of the match, and also the last in the final second to bring a capacity crowd of 3500 to their feet. In a neck-and-neck first half, the Mystics had to overcome early nerves and Geitz’s swarming defence on in-form shooter Cathrine Latu to find their rhythm and lock the scores at 12-all at quarter-time.

              Latu finished with 21 goals while goal attack Maria Tutaia was a stand-out for the visitors with 23 goals, including a string of long bombs. The Firebirds are the fourth different Australian team to claim the title in the four-year history of the competition, following in the footsteps of the NSW Swifts, Melbourne Vixens and Adelaide Thunderbirds.


              1 . Romelda Aiken – Firebirds – 523/607 (86.2%)
              2 . Caitlin Bassett – Fever – 478/538 (88.8%)
              3 . Cathrine Latu – Mystics – 449/482 (93.2%)
              4 . Irene van Dyk – Magic – 529/570 (92.8%)
              5 . Caitlin Thwaites – Pulse – 431/530 (81.3%)

              Avatar photoIan Harkin
                Post count: 22046

                PHOTO ALBUM from Simon Leonard

                FirebirdsVMystics GRAND FINAL-079.jpg
                Avatar photoIan Harkin
                  Post count: 22046

                  VIDEO from ANZ Championship
                  (not great quality)

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