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History beckons netball's Firebirds

NZN 17/07/2016 Adrian Warren

Queensland Firebirds can move closer to two slices of eternal trans-Tasman netball competition history when they host NSW Swifts in the Australian conference final on Monday.

With the 10-team tournament in its ninth and final season, no side has yet won back-to-back titles.

The defending champion Firebirds are also on track to finish as the outright most successful team, as they are presently locked with Melbourne Vixens and Adelaide Thunderbirds on two championships apiece.

The Swifts and Firebirds split their two regular season games, with the home side victorious on each occasion.

They met at the corresponding stage last year when Queensland won, with the Firebirds also triumphant over the Swifts in the grand final.

This season however the Swifts, who have lost all 10 of their trans-Tasman matches ever played in Brisbane, have had over a week's break as opposed to less than 48 hours last year.

"I've been here for seven seasons and I feel the rivalry with New South Wales immensely, there's a lot at stake for both teams," Firebirds' coach Roseleee Jencke said on the club's website.

"When we played the Swifts in the Australian conference final last year, there was a lot of discussion around the fact they only had a couple of days off before backing up and weren't fully recovered.

"This time, they've had a good amount of time to prepare for us.

"They will be fresh and ready to go. We're looking forward to playing the game with both sides on equal terms."

Both teams will put the emphasis on defensive pressure in a match where the ability to convert hard-won turnovers into goals will be critical.

"We certainly are aware of their ability to score very fast and the need for us to be able to apply defensive pressure for 60-plus minutes," Swifts midcourt star Laura Langman told AAP.

"It has been a real focus for this week, ensuring that full court presence is there.

"The real strength of the Firebirds is they don't necessarily have to be in the attacking third to be able to hit the target, that being (star shooter) Romelda (Aiken).

"They are a massive threat from anywhere when they receive the ball in that mid third."

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