In front of their passionate purple army, the Queensland Firebirds achieved a significant victory over the Melbourne Vixens, who were set for the finals. Leesa Mi Mi and Donnell Wallam, Indigenous players for the Firebirds, drew inspiration from the First Nations Round and channeled that energy throughout the game.
Despite their previous tough loss, the Vixens seemed like a completely different team, lacking their usual vigor and drive. It was the underdogs, the Firebirds, who rose to the occasion, refusing to back down. Mi Mi, despite her limited experience compared to her opponent Liz Watson, displayed immense tenacity and skill.
Hannah Mundy had an outstanding performance, particularly in the early stages of the game, finishing with an impressive 28 goal assists, the highest for either team. She was the sole consistent player for the Vixens throughout the match.
Wallam exerted her dominance in the goal circle, leaving the Vixens defense helpless, whether shooting from close range or opting for two-point shots. Notably, Emily Mannix, a Diamonds player, spent the majority of the first three quarters on the bench, with Olivia Lewis taking on the role of GK instead.
Even the Vixens' attempt to employ a diamond defense in the goal third to thwart Wallam's progress proved futile. Only when Mannix was finally subbed in, during her 100th game, did the Vixens start to witness an immediate impact.
On the other end of the court, Kiera Austin showcased her adeptness at maneuvering around the circle, especially when Mwai Kumwenda created additional space by venturing out. However, Bakewell-Doran's relentless pressure restricted Austin's output more than usual.
In the third quarter, Austin's spirits soared with a super shot during the power five period. She swiftly intercepted the center pass and successfully scored another super shot, leveling the scoreline.
As the clock ticked down, Mi Mi's hesitant pass into the goal circle was intercepted, but she quickly redeemed herself by securing an intercept in the midcourt. This enabled her team to enter the final quarter with a one-goal advantage.
The last quarter proved to be a tightly contested battle, as the Firebirds were determined to protect their lead while the Vixens sought to avoid consecutive losses. The Vixens' experience shone through, with their defenders elevating their work rate. Nevertheless, the Firebirds refused to relent, with Remi Kamo and Bakewell-Doran making numerous deflections, creating discomfort for Kumwenda and Austin.
Opting for a conservative approach, the Firebirds chose one-goal shots instead of risking the super shot, even though Austin had proven her proficiency in nailing them. In the end, it was Wallam who sealed the game with a super shot, leading her team to a resounding five-goal victory in the final match of the First Nations Round.
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Photo Courtesy Suncorp Super Netball
Courtesy Suncorp Super Netball