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Queensland Firebirds beat NSW Swifts in double extra-time in ANZ Championship final


You will not see a better game of netball, let alone in a grand final. 

They said last year’s decider could not be beaten. Those people were wrong. 

Intense rivalry: Firebirds star Romelda Aiken collides with Swifts defencer Sharni Layton during the 2016 ANZ ...
Intense rivalry: Firebirds star Romelda Aiken collides with Swifts defencer Sharni Layton during the 2016 ANZ Championship grand final between Queensland and NSW at Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Photo: Jason O’Brien

It was said the NSW Swifts could not suffer a defeat any more painful. On Sunday afternoon, that is exactly what happened as the Firebirds, for the second year in a row, crushed the Swifts 69-67 in the most unbelievable fashion – in double extra-time – thanks to a clutch goal from Romelda Aiken. 

Caitlin Thwaites scored a goal with four seconds remaining – the Swifts’ third of the last minute – in extended extra-time – to level scores before Stephanie Wood, with the final shot of extra-time, lipped out to put everyone’s jaw flat on the ground at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. 

The clock was then stopped, with the first team to go ahead by two goals crowned champions and on this remarkable Sunday afternoon in front of vociferous Queensland fans, it was Aiken who delivered the killer blow to the Swifts in an even more painful manner than last year. 

Emotions spilled out on court as Swifts players began to contemplate how it all went wrong again.  

The NSW Swifts blew a three-quarter lead and were ahead for a good portion of extra-time before Aiken’s three goals to finish the game etched another a famous moment into the last chapter of the ANZ Championship. 

Earlier, captain Kim Green showed her intent from the get-go as she orchestrated a turnover in the first phase of play to gift Thwaites the first goal of the afternoon as the Swifts then raced out to a 6-2 lead within the first five minutes. 

Exemplary display: Susan Pettit lines up a shot.
Exemplary display: Susan Pettit lines up a shot. Photo: Getty Images

The Firebirds had a very clear game plan from the outset to serve Aiken with long passes to make the most of her height advantage over Sharni Layton. 

While she was getting plenty of ball, her shooting was poor with just 63 per cent in the opening term. It got as bad as 17/29 (59 per cent), but she improved to finish with a whopping 63 goals from 89 attempts (71 per cent).

Back-to-back titles: Romelda Aiken and Laura Geitz celebrate.
Back-to-back titles: Romelda Aiken and Laura Geitz celebrate. Photo: Getty Images

It was clear Layton was getting under her skin, and after another couple of misses, the exuberant Swifts defender gave a big thumbs up and a grin to the Brisbane crowd. 

To provide some context, Aiken had shot at 87.5 per cent this season before Sunday’s game. 

Fierce: Caitlin Thwaites and Laura Geitz grapple for possession.
Fierce: Caitlin Thwaites and Laura Geitz grapple for possession. Photo: Getty Images

The Swifts led at quarter-time 15-12, and coincidentally, were also up by three goals (14-11) in last year’s grand final before running out of petrol in sight of the finish line. 

Queensland came out of the blocks with the first four goals of the second quarter – as well as three misses – to lead in no time, despite Aiken showing ongoing symptoms of a bad case of the yips. 

The hosts’ two-goal lead at the main break was built on the back of Laura Geitz’s clinical work in defence, which camouflaged Queensland’s erratic shooting that finished up at 69/100 compared to the Swifts’ 67 from 84. 

In a hard-fought third quarter, Susan Pettitt put the Swifts ahead with 3:50 remaining in the term in what was, on a personal note, another exemplary display for a player who has given so much to NSW netball. 



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