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Magpies flop a distant memory for flying Firebirds

LAURA Geitz feared the Firebirds were cooked when they lost to the cellar-dwelling Collingwood in early June.But after a scorching second half to the regular season, they loom as the genuine wildcards in the Suncorp Super Netball finals series.An inconsistent Queensland swung wildly between brilliant and bumbling in the first six rounds to have a tenuous 3-3 win-loss record after the shock defeat to the Magpies.However, the Firebirds go into Sunday’s sudden-death semi-final against the Sunshine Coast at Boondall with ominous momentum after winning six of their past eight matches.Two of those wins were over the top two sides — GWS Giants and West Coast Fever.With some better fourth-quarter management against the Lightning in round nine and Vixens in round 10, the Firebirds could have won all eight and been in the double-chance major semi-final.Geitz said after a rollercoaster ride the Firebirds have given themselves a shot at glory.“We were very up and down there for a while. I remember thinking after that loss to Collingwood down in Tassy, ‘oh my goodness, we are in all sorts of trouble’,’’ Geitz said.“The wins over Giants and Fever back-to-back were a real turning point for us. After going win-loss-win-loss for most of the year, we strung together two wins against really good teams.

“The confidence from those performances has given us something to hold on to.“We are not overconfident by any stretch of the imagination but once you are in the finals, anything can happen.“That’s the approach you have to take. Whatever has happened up until this point counts for absolutely nothing.’’Geitz said the Firebirds are ready for a physical and intense battle with the Lightning who boast “big-name players at both ends of the court’’ and the key to victory would be shutting down the Sunshine Coast’s midcourt.After a slow start, the Lightning have recaptured some of the form that took them to the 2017 title including a nailbiting last-second win over the Firebirds in round nine.“They are pretty lethal. They are a different team to the one we saw at the start of the season,’’ Geitz said.Geitz will be playing the first Suncorp Super Netball final of her glittering career after missing the inaugural season in 2017 following the birth of her son Barney.The last time she played a finals match was the 2016 ANZ Championship Grand Final against the NSW Swifts at Boondall.Her match-up with long-time Australian teammate, good friend and Lightning goalshooter Caitlin Bassett will be one of the feature duels in the “Sunshine Shootout”.

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