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Firebirds beat Swifts in netball thriller

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/07/2016 Vince Rugari
Firebirds Romelda Aiken and Laura Geitz celebrate winning the ANZ Championship. © Jason O'Brien/Getty Images Firebirds Romelda Aiken and Laura Geitz celebrate winning the ANZ Championship.

The Queensland Firebirds have etched their name into the annals of trans-Tasman netball history, holding on for a thrilling sudden-death extra-time win over the NSW Swifts in Sunday's grand final in Brisbane.

Despite a woeful shooting performance from import shooter Romelda Aiken, the Firebirds prevailed 69-67 after scores were locked at full-time and after two seven-minute periods of added time.

Aiken - who made 63 of her 89 attempts on goal at an uncharacteristic 70 per cent - drained the winning shot under the ring, prompting a huge roar from the sold-out crowd at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

It is Queensland's third grand final win, making them the most successful franchise in the trans-Tasman era which ended on Sunday ahead of next year's launch of an eight-team all-Australian league.

They also became the first team to win back-to-back titles, having beaten the Swifts in another thrilling finish at the same venue last year.

In a further sign of the sport's surging popularity, a sold-out crowd of 10,312 was on hand - the biggest-ever for a netball match in Queensland and the third-biggest in trans-Tasman netball history.

But it could have been very different for the Firebirds, who gave the Swifts a foothold into the contest with their inaccurate shooting.

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.

Goal attack Gretel Tippett, who scored the winner in last year's decider, was quiet with 6 of 11 shooting but provided 47 feeds.

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.

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