Swifts leading Aussie charge

2014 Round 5 ANZ Championship game - Firebirds v MysticsAustralian sides took bragging rights over their New Zealand rivals in the first round of `trans Tasman’ matches this ANZ Championship season.

The NSW Swifts, Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds all scored victories as the ladder starts to take shape a third of the way ino the season.

It’s the Swifts best start to a season since 2011.

At the end of Round 5 the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, under new coach and former Australian Diamonds assistant Julie Fitzgerald, remain unbeaten on top of the ladder followed by the Swifts, Vixens and Queensland Firebirds.

The next `trans Tasman’ round of matches is not until Round 14, the last of the regular season.

The Swiftts head into their bye this weekend in outright second spot on the ladder following a dominant 63-45 win over the Central Pulse in Sydney.

It was even for most of the first half before the Swifts took control, led by defenders Sharni Layton and April Letton while Caitlin Thwaites and Susan Pratley were on target in their goal circle.

Swifts captain Kimberlee Green said it was a pleasing performance by her side.

The Vixens bounced back from two consecutive defeats to score a convincing 67-43 victory over the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch.

Shooter Karyn Bailey produced a career-best performance with 43 goals at 89 per cent accuracy as the Vixens jumped from fifth place into third at the end of the round.

The Firebirds 58-50 victory over the Northern Mystics was their first home court win for the season and sets up a fascinating rematch with the Vixens in Brisbane next Monday night.

The Firebirds beat the Vixens by a goal down in Melbourne in Round 3.

Firebirds captain Laura Geitz said she was pleased her side dug deep when challenged by the Mystics in the last term.2014 Round 5 ANZ Championship game - Firebirds v Mystics

“They’re a top quality team and we knew it would be a tough effort,” Geitz said.

“We like to make it hard on ourselves – when we’ve got an eight or nine goal lead we need to hold onto those.

“But really happy with the way we finished those last five minutes (of the match).”

The Adelaide Thunderbirds suffered consecutive losses for the first time since Round 10, 2012 when they went down 61-59 to the Southern Steel at Netball SA Stadium.

It was the Steel’s first ever victory in Australia at their 17th attempt and the first time that the Thunderbirds have lost at home since Round 3 – also in 2012.

“Bitterly disappointed to get another loss but full credit to the Steel. They played a great 60-minute game plan,” Adelaide captain Renae Hallinan said.

“We had patches that were excellent and patches that weren’t so good that we’ll go back and look at.”

The Thunderbirds travel to Perth this weekend to take on West Coast Fever, who returned from their double header road trip to New Zealand empty handed after losing by 17 goals to Magic in Tauranga.

After a great opening term, the Fever struggled to contain the Magic’s influential midcourter Grace Rasmussen and in-form shooter Jo Harten, who led the home side to a 65-48 victory.

Fever captain Natalie Medhurst was disappointed with the performance.

“We started so well and that second quarter was a completely different ball game,” Medhurst said.

“We made really bad, basic errors and allowed them to get on top and they ran away with it.”

Main image: courtesy of SMP Images/Murray Wilkinson.