Firebirds of prey now the hunted

Firebirds Gretel Tippett passes the ball in the grand final between the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts in Brisbane. Photo: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.
Firebirds Gretel Tippett passes the ball in the grand final between the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts in Brisbane. Photo: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt.

No team has gone back-to-back in the ANZ Championship and Queensland grand final heroine Gretel Tippett reckons it will be a tough task if the Firebirds are to be the first to break that duck this season.

Goal attack Tippett scored the winning goal in last season's thrilling decider with just 14 seconds remaining as the Firebirds defeated her former club, the Sydney Swifts, 57-56.

That was the first time the Queenslanders had led for the whole grand final and a great defensive play from captain Laura Geitz allowed the Firebirds to hold on.

Tippett says she regularly looks back on those thrilling final moments of the season decider, but knows it will take an even bigger effort this time around to defend the crown.

"I still get goosebumps thinking about it," the 22-year-old said.

"Hopefully we can go just as well this season.

"It is a very hard, tough competition and it will be difficult to win it again.

"Any team which wins the premiership the season before has targets on their back and everyone will be gunning for us.

"No team has gone back-to-back and we have to add to our tool box and we have been working hard on changing our game style for this season.

"We have got a few variations in tactics and hopefully they will work for us."

The Firebirds have a number of world-class players in their line-up and Tippett, the younger sister of AFL players Joel and Kurt, said it was a dream to be able to play alongside some of the game's superstars week in, week out.

"I love being out on court with all the players in our team," she said.

"Kim Revaillion gives us a lot of confidence in the centre, while we can get the ball into Romelda Aiken in the goal circle and rely on her to score the goals."

The Firebirds play the Mainland Tactix at what is expected to be a sold-out Brisbane Convention Centre for the opening round of their title defence on Friday night.

The Australian teams have had the upper hand over their New Zealand rivals over the past couple of seasons but Tippett said former West Coast Fever coach Sue Gaudian could give the Christchurch-based side some good knowledge in the build-up to the game.

"They will definitely come out firing," Tippett said.

"And in Sue Gordian they have a coach who will have an insight in how to beat Aussie teams.

"It's going to be a super-tough start to the season and we will have to take it one game at a time.

"Last season was unbelievable with an unbelievable finish, but we just want to keep building and we cannot rest on our laurels.

"We just want to keep on improving and if we do that then who knows what can happen?"



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