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Firebirds beat Swifts in GF thriller

NZN 31/07/2016 By Vince Rugari

The Queensland Firebirds are hopeful of entering netball's new era with the core of players who etched their names into trans-Tasman history in thrilling fashion on Sunday.

The Firebirds became the only team to claim back-to-back titles by beating the NSW Swifts 69-67 in a double-overtime grand final nailbiter in the last - and surely - greatest - match in the competition's nine-year history.

It is Queensland's third crown, making them the most successful side in the trans-Tasman era ahead of next year's launch of an eight-team all-Australian league.

Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke believed the Firebirds could withstand an expected recruitment frenzy from cashed-up new franchises backed by AFL and NRL clubs and keep their dominance rolling.

"(The players) know how they've built a really strong, tight-knit group. I think they do want to be able to keep pursuing success and excellence," Jencke said.

"There might be a few changes but we just need to see what happens in the off-season. We won't have long, it all starts pretty quickly."

For now, the Firebirds are celebrating a second successive grand final thriller over the Swifts in what is emerging as one of Australian sport's most compelling rivalries.

They did it despite a bad case of the "yips" from their star shooter Romelda Aiken, who made just 63 of her 89 attempts on goal at an uncharacteristically low 70 per cent.

Despite becoming the first player in the history of the trans-Tasman competition to surpass 5000 goals, Aiken was well below her season average accuracy of 87.5 per cent and was seemingly rattled by NSW enforcer Sharni Layton, who kept her in check.

But the Jamaican finished brilliantly, draining the winning shot under the ring to elicit a huge roar from the sold-out crowd of 10,312 at Brisbane Entertainment Centre - the biggest attendance for a match in Queensland, and the third-biggest in trans-Tasman netball.

Jencke said the magnitude of the occasion got to Aiken.

"She's our spearhead and with that comes pressure," she said.

"We just needed to keep the positivity there. To finish off that way when she probably had the yips for the majority of the game, I'm just really rapt."

NSW's Caitlyn Thwaites (34 of 41) and Susan Pettitt (30 of 39) were, in comparison, nailing shots from all angles - but after a strong opening quarter, the Swifts never led by more than one goal.

"It hurts just as much (as last year)," veteran Swift Kim Green said.

"We had our opportunities to win today and we just didn't take them.

"We build a season for eight months and it comes down to this one day to really perform and I think we did ... but just weren't able to get over the line."

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