Queensland Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke has lunged for the underdog tag ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster trans-Tasman netball grand final rematch against the NSW Swifts in Brisbane.
It is the first meeting between the two sides – the competition’s only remaining unbeaten teams – since last year’s memorable decider, when the Firebirds trailed all game but stole an incredible win in the final seconds.
The Swifts are currently top of the ladder, but only ahead of the Firebirds by goal difference.
And while Queensland booked a record 17th consecutive win last weekend, Jencke says the pressure should all be on NSW.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. The Swifts are a very confident, in-form team,” she said.
“They have scored the most goals and have had the least goals scored against them, so they would have to be red-hot favourites.
“It’s going to be a tight tussle and we are really excited to be tested.”
The Firebirds have won four of their last five over the Swifts, who have opened the new season with clear intent in establishing the league’s strongest attacking and defensive records.
Jencke admitted Queensland are yet to hit their straps.
“We are very happy with where we are at this point in the season, but our game isn’t perfect and we have to improve across all our lines,” she said.
“If we play our game and execute the way we did last year against the Swifts it will be a really exciting game and as tightly contested as it always is.”
Jencke said the key to victory would be silencing the Swifts’ deadly attacking duo of Kimberlee Green and Caitlyn Thwaites, while heaping pressure on defensive stalwart Sharni Layton.
Both sides are largely the same as in last year’s grand final but NSW recruit Laura Langman looms as the wildcard.
The New Zealand vice-captain, one of the best centres in world netball, has the potential to provide the Swifts with the calm, assured on-court presence they were missing against the Firebirds when the title slipped from their grasp.