The Queensland Firebirds have continued their late-season rise with a morale-boosting 64-58 victory over the Melbourne Vixens to close Indigenous Round.
Last season’s wooden spooners withstood a stern challenge from the minor premiers at the Cairns Pop Up Arena to earn their third win in the last four games, dealing the Vixens just their second loss of the season in the process.
Queensland suffered a 28-goal loss to Melbourne back in round two but demonstrated how far they have evolved by powering ahead by 11 goals in the second quarter then bouncing back to win convincingly after the Vixens briefly hit the front in the second half.
Romelda Aiken finished with 45 goals but the victory was built on the defensive efforts of Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner, along with Gabi Simpson’s leadership from wing defence.
“I guess it’s been building all season, it’s great that we can finally get out here and we’re all really connected and doing our own job,” Jenner said after the win.
The Townsville-born defender won Player of the Match honours with her family watching in the stands for the Firebirds’ first appearance in Far North Queensland.
“It was really special that they could drive up to Cairns and watch me so it’s great that we got a game up here,” she said.
With the minor premiership firmly in their keeping, Melbourne allowed Liz Watson to sit out for a second straight game with an ankle complaint while goaler Caitlin Thwaites started the match on interchange.
Thwaites came into the contest after the Firebirds won the opening quarter 18-12 and swung momentum to the Vixens with a barrage of Suncorp Super Shots to cut Queensland’s lead to two approaching halftime.
A late two-pointer from Tippah Dwan handed the Firebirds a 35-31 advantage at the main break but the championship favourites answered with six of the first seven goals of the second half to grab their first lead of the game.
But the Firebirds steadied to edge ahead 48-44 after three quarters then opened the fourth period with five goals in a row to complete the upset win.
The Firebirds will aim to end their season on a high against Collingwood Magpies on Saturday while the Vixens face the Sunshine Coast Lightning on Sunday in a clash that will determine second spot on the ladder.
Q1: Vixens 12 v Firebirds 18
Q2: Vixens 19 v Firebirds 17
Q3: Vixens 13 v Firebirds 13
Q4: Vixens 14 v Firebirds 16
Nissan Player of The Match – Kim Jenner (Firebirds)
Vixens shooting statistics
Tegan Philip: Total points 9 – G1 7/8 (88%) G2 1/2 (50%)
Caitlin Thwaites: Total points 24 – G1 10/11 (91%) G2 7/7 (100%)
Mwai Kumwenda: Total points 25 – G1 19/19 (100%) G2 3/5 (60%)
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken: Total points – 45 G1 45/51 (88%)
Tippah Dwan: Total points – 19 G1 13/17 (77%) G2 3/6 (50%)
Vixens starting seven: GS – Mwai Kumwenda GA – Tegan Philip WA – Tayla Honey C – Kate Moloney WD – Kate Eddy GD – Jo Weston GK – Emily Mannix
Firebirds starting seven: GS – Romelda Aiken GA – Tippah Dwan WA – Lara Dunkley C – Mahalia Cassidy WD – Gabi Simpson GD – Kim Jenner GK – Tara Hinchliffe