For the second consecutive season and third time in the league’s history, three Australian sides will contest the Finals of the ANZ Championship.
The top was finalised in Round 13 action with this weekend to officially determine the make-up of the Major and Minor Semi Finals.
The Queensland Firebirds ended the Central Pulse’s hopes of an historic finals appearance with a dominant performance to open the round on the Gold Coast.
The 27-goal victory sealed back-to-back finals appearances for the Firebirds for the first time in their history with their star shooter Romelda Aiken becoming the first player to reach 3500 career goals while the defence of Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman totally blanketed the potent Pulse attack.
The match was over at half-time with the Firebirds leading by 18 goals and they restricted their visitors to under 10 goals every quarter.
“It was fantastic (team performance),” Geitz said.
Picture: Courtesy of Burton Photography
“We spoke about how important it was to come out in first quarter. It was a huge match for both teams but we knew if we came out strong, we gave ourselves the best chance (of winning).”
The Firebirds head to New Zealand next Monday night for a final round showdown with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
The Melbourne Vixens sealed the double chance after a 64-43 win against the Adelaide Thunderbirds and will win the minor premiership should it defeat the Southern Steel at Invercargill this Saturday.
Madi Robinson was influential in the 21-goal win with shooters Karyn Bailey, Tegan Caldwell and Catherine Cox all in good form. Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield said she was delighted by the team’s performance.
“We knew it was going to be really hard. Last time we obviously had a massive win (by 38 goals) but to win by 21 (goals) over here, it’s perfect for our preparation going forward,” Chatfield said.
Thunderbirds captain Renae Hallinan said they were simply outclassed by a formidable opponent.
“Vixens are a quality side and that’s why they’re at the top of the ladder,” Hallinan said.
“I’m so, so proud of way the girls fought it out hard. The score line is not that pretty for us but certainly it was an effort that the pink can be proud of because we put it all out there and no one dropped their heads at any stage.”
The NSW Swifts locked in its first finals appearance since 2011 after toppling the Magic 55-43 in Sydney.
After a tight opening term, the Swifts took control of the game heading towards half-time and then sealed the result with a strong third term. Captain Kimberlee Green and shooters Susan Pratley and Caitlin Thwaites led the way as the Swifts made it five straight wins.
The Swifts end the regular season with a trip to Auckland to face the Northern Mystics on Sunday afternoon.
West Coast Fever captain Natalie Medhurst became the first Australian player to reach 100 ANZ Championship games, but it wasn’t a memorable night as her side lost 63-51 to the Mystics in Auckland.
A disappointing third term proved costly in the final result after the Fever had led at quarter-time.
Shooter Caitlin Bassett became the second player in the league’s history – behind Aiken – to score more than 400 goals in a season for the seventh straight year.
The Fever finish the season with a home match next Monday night against the Pulse in what will be Norma Pluumer’s final match as coach, having announced she’s stepping down after three seasons in charge.