10,312 netball fans, the biggest netball crowd Queensland has ever seen, filled Brisbane Entertainment centre to see the Queensland Firebirds claim the ANZ Championship trophy in thrilling extended extra-time against the NSW Swifts.
The Firebirds become the first and only ANZ Championship team to claim back-to-back titles and win the trophy on three occasions (2011, 2015 and 2016).
At the conclusion of regular time, nothing could separate the two teams, with scores locked at 54-all. Two periods of seven-minute extra time were played, and still a winner could not be decided, with the game continuing into extended extra time.
Play would continue until one team had a two-goal advantage to seal the win. The Swifts scored the first goal, but then a crucial intercept by Gabi Simpson, followed by two Romelda Aiken goals claimed the title for the Queenslanders, 69-67.
Australian Diamonds midcourter Kim Ravaillion was named the Finals Series MVP, having played in four consecutive Grand Finals since her ANZ Championship debut.
Triple-premiership Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke said the spectacle will be something netball supporters and sports fans will talk about for weeks to come.
“To finish like that, is enormous for the sport,” Jencke said.
“It’s really exciting to go into extended extra time as a spectacle live on television, to have the crowd that big, people will be talking about it for weeks.
“They talked about last year’s game so now this is going to replace that, for the public to say this is just awesome sport.”
NSW Swifts captain Kimberlee Green echoed Jencke’s sentiments.
“I look at our sport and I think we continue to grow every year and we keep getting new audiences,” Green said.
“I think if we keep pushing the boundaries and having those sort of games we will attract more and more people.”
Green also believed the intense match was ideal for fans and showed how physically and mentally tough netballers go about their business.
“That’s what spectators want, they want a really hard dogged match and to go into extra time and extended extra time, I think that gives people a really good insight into how we operate as players and the strength that we have mentally,” Green said.
Attention now turns to the new national netball league which will commence next season, compiled of eight Australian teams, including the five existing Australian franchises.
NSW Swifts coach Rob Wright says he expects the competition and rivalry to get even tougher next season, describing the contest with the Firebirds as “red-hot.”
“(The Swifts/Firebirds rivalry) shows how good this game is. Netball in Australia is just the world’s best. This rivalry has just gone to somewhere new which is really cool,” Wright said.
“I expect things are going to change next year and it’s just going to get tougher and tougher, especially now there are eight Australian grown teams, it’s going to be pretty cool.”