Now or never for Firebirds and Swifts

SHOOTING AUSTRALIA: Awards of Excellence - Harbourside Room - Museum of Contemporary, NSW Australia. Photo: Narelle Spangher, Shooting Australia

It’s all or nothing this weekend as the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts fight-off in their respective Semi-Finals for a place in next weekend’s ANZ Championship Grand Final.

A win in the Australian Conference Final last weekend for the Queensland Firebirds means they will host the Southern Steel in the sudden death Semi-Final on Sunday.

The Steel suffered a shock loss to New Zealand Conference Champions the WBOP Magic, after remaining undefeated throughout the regular ANZ Championship season.

Last time the Firebirds and Steel met in Round 11, the Queenslanders were without defensive-duo Clare McMeniman and Laura Geitz.

Consequently it was an out of sorts Firebirds line-up, including star shooter Romelda Aiken in defence, something we have witnessed on the international stage.

Geitz and McMeniman will have the big task of managing New Zealand Conference MVP Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Te Paea Selby-Rickit this weekend, whose combination has flourished in their second full year playing together.

There should also be an interesting battle in the midcourt between the two sides. Kim Ravaillion was a stand-out performer in the Australian Conference Final, as well as workhorse Gabi Simpson. Simpson will meet her match in Gina Crampton who has had a standout year with the Steel.

On the other side of the Tasman the NSW Swifts will be using their second chance to push for their second consecutive Grand Final appearance when they face the WBOP Magic in Hamilton on Monday.

The Swifts will be disappointed with their 11-goal loss in the Australian Conference Final and will be looking for redemption as they face the Magic in a deja-vu Semi-Final scenario.

Last time these two met, it was the Swifts who emerged 28-goal winners. Although Magic were missing key players in their line-up through injury including captain Leana de Bruin.

The New Zealand Conference Champions looked strong against the Steel last weekend, so the Swifts will have their work cut out for them.

Midcourter Grace Rasmussen has made an impactful return to the court after missing a large part of the start of the season through injury. Laura Langman, who has also been in stellar form, will meet Rasmussen in the midcourt, with the winner of this battle having the ability to shape the game.

Also keep an eye on the combination of Sharni Layton on Joanne Harten. It has been clear that Harten is the dominant shooter in that Magic circle, so shutting her down early could be the key to the Swifts’ success.

The Firebirds and Steel Semi-Final will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Australia and the Netball Live App, with a replay being shown on Monday July 25 on ONE HD. Limited tickets are still available. The Magic v Swifts Semi-Final will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Australia and available on demand via the Netball Live App, with a replay being shown on Tuesday 26 July on ONE HD.