New look teams for old netball rivalry

Mar 9, 2017 - 6:13 AM Former super powers Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts meet for the first time in Super Netball on Friday, when they try to keep pace with the new kids on the block.

The Firebirds won the last two trans-Tasman titles on their home court, coming from behind to beat the Swifts by one goal in 2015 and then winning an extended extra-time epic by two last year.

Such a rivalry would normally command automatic match of the round status but that may not be the case this weekend because of the vastly different netball landscape this season.

Two of the three new franchises, Sunshine Coast and Giants Netball, are the only unbeaten sides in the now exclusively Australian eight-team competition and face each other on Saturday.

The Swifts and Firebirds are third and fourth respectively with both teams logging a win, loss and draw from the first three rounds.

They will field very different teams in Brisbane to the ones that clashed in last season's unforgettable decider.

The Swifts were gutted by the three new clubs, each of whom took two of their leading players.

The Firebirds lost only one prominent player, Kim Ravaillion to Collingwood, but are contesting this season without defensive lynchpins Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman, due to pregnancy and retirement respectively.

Firebirds' coach Roselee Jencke, and her Swifts counterpart Rob Wright, insisted the rivalry remained despite the many changes to both teams.

"There's always a state of origin-type rivalry that exists between the Swifts and Firebirds," Jencke said.

"The Swifts have got that underdog tag this year but I don't view them that way whatsoever.

"We haven't won at home and we want to get two points on our own court... we can't afford to take them lightly.

"We've still got a lot of improvement left in us."

Wright said it was a brand new rivalry but was wary of the established and "deadly" Firebirds shooting combination of Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett.

"Overall I'm really pleased in where we are heading," Wright said.

"We are ahead of where we thought we would be after three rounds."

Netball legend Anne Sargeant was impressed by the tenacity of the Swifts youngsters.

"Everyone's natural thought is that this is a development year or a tough year (for the Swifts) but that's just made them more determined to look internally and play for each other," Sargeant told AAP.

Source: AAP

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