Firebirds draw first blood in Queensland battle
NETBALL: The Queensland Firebirds passed their toughest test of pre-season on Saturday night as they defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 57-47 at Ormiston College.
In a preview of Suncorp Super Netball round one at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Saturday, February 18, the Firebirds settled quickly to take control of the match without their Diamonds stars.
New starters Laura Clemesha and Mahalia Cassidy put in eye catching performances against Lightning stars Caitlin Bassett and Laura Langman, while new recruit Abigail Latu-Meafou enjoyed a fantastic debut alongside Romelda Aiken.
Clemesha said she was encouraged by her team's relentless approach through the four quarters and looked forward to clashing with the Firebirds' new rivals again in round one.
"As a team we put together what we were practicing this week at training," Clemesha said.
"We were lucky enough to have Clare McMeniman come in and work with the defensive unit on our Firebirds brand of play this week - hard one-on-one defence and mixing it up with a split in the defensive circle. We really applied that and the attackers' connections really shone as well. I couldn't be prouder.
"It was really exciting that we knuckled down and pushed on after a good first quarter. It's nice to get out there with a side as good as Lightning and know that it's still netball. As long as we stick to the game plan, the results will come."
The Firebirds started the game strongly, with training partner Tara Hinchliffe taking an intercept off the first Lightning centre pass to set the tone for the match.
Relentless defensive pressure followed and Latu-Meafou and Aiken were the beneficiaries at the other end of the court, ably assisted by Cassidy and Jemma Mi Mi.
The Lightning threatened to make a comeback early in the third frame, with Bassett netting a bevy of goals before a tactical timeout halted her momentum and enabled Queensland to reassert themselves.
Firebirds assistant coach Jenny Brazel, deputising for Roselee Jencke who was in South Africa with the Australian Diamonds, said she was delighted for her senior players and the youth that came into the squad.
"We were in every contest, working hard and had a lot of variety in attack. When our young players came on they fit right in and I was really pleased for them," Brazel said.
"The girls will take a lot of confidence. (Mahalia Cassidy) really wanted to test herself and Laura Langman is a great player - one of the best in our game. Mahalia put herself in the contest every time and did a really good job.
"That's the first time Clem has had an opportunity to play on C-Bass. Everything we practiced during the week came through. I was really happy for her."N