The Queensland Firebirds have kept their Super Netball finals hopes alive with a gritty 61-52 win over Sunshine Coast lightning in just their first derby win in four years.
One of the most fancied teams heading into the season, the Firebirds had won just one of their opening five games and needed to take out the Queensland derby to keep their season alive.
They played like their year was on the line too, establishing an eight-goal lead at the opening break and going to halftime up by 14 after pushing on with the job.
But the Lightning cut the deficit to just six goals in the third term, setting the match up for a thrilling finish.
The Firebirds took out the opening clash between the two teams in the first season of Super Netball in 2017 but had not tasted victory since and a win could not have come at a better time.
And it was returning players Kim Ravaillion and Gretel Bueta who helped turn the tide with outstanding contributions.
Ravaillion powered the Firebirds’ first-half lead, while Bueta shouldered an enormous workload in her first full match of the season to finish with 21 points, 15 goal assists, 25 feeds and 25 centre pass receives to run opponent Karla Pretorius ragged.
Firebirds coach Megan Anderson said the victory was “a bit of a relief” after the team’s second-half capitulation to the Vixens last week.
“I thought everyone just did their jobs tonight which was pleasing,” she said.
“We’re trying not to think of the outcome because you get more anxious as the game goes on but the girls have been working super hard and they’re all eager and doing the right things week-to-week so it was good to see them get some good reward.
“It was sometimes hard to see we were on the right track when we were getting those one-point losses, so (it’s good) knowing that we’re getting there and to keep building.”
Lightning mentor Kylee Byrne was disappointed her side had strayed so far from their game plan.
“We knew what kind of style they played and instead of playing our style and doing what we’ve done well to get our wins up this season, we actually went away from that and became a bit cautious and apprehensive with the ball,” she said.
“We let them dominate us early on and in the end we couldn’t get it back.”
Ravaillion on fire
Kim Ravaillion has achieved almost everything in the purple dress but the former Firebirds championship winner had never played a derby after leaving for Collingwood at the end of 2016.
But she was outstanding in her first all-Queensland affair, taking the points from former Firebird, now Lightning centre Mahalia Cassidy in the first half and linking expertly with her midcourt to move the ball down court to the goal circle.
Her tireless performance included 20 goal assists and 26 feeds, leading to her winning player of the match honours but coach Megan Anderson believes she still has room to improve and her best is yet to come.
Maweni find her mojo
Lightning defender Phumza Maweni had her work cut out for her playing on one of the tallest shooters in the league in Romelda Aiken and she struggled in the first half, playing like a woman giving away 10cm to her rival.
But in coming off the body of the Jamaican product in the second half, Maweni made life more difficult for the prolific shooter.
The South African is most dangerous when out hunting for the ball and was key to the third-quarter fightback, finishing with two intercepts and three gains to keep the Lightning in the match until the dying stages.
Results fall for Firebirds
The win keeps the Firebirds in touch with the competition leaders after the Giants, Lightning and Magpies lost at the weekend.
The Giants’ derby loss to the Swifts earlier on Sunday afternoon gave the Lightning the chance to take the competition lead with a win over the Firebirds but the Brisbane-based team’s victory lifts them to fifth place on the ladder just one win outside the four.
In a jammed ladder, they are also just two wins from the top of the ladder and back in the race for a finals place.