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Swifts seek to stop scary Firebirds

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/05/2016 Adrian Warren

NSW Swifts shooting star Caitlin Thwaites says it's scary to see how the Queensland Firebirds have improved, as her team seeks to snap the defending trans-Tasman netball champions' 21-match winning streak on Sunday.

The Firebirds have bucked the trend of previous champions, all of whom failed to make the finals the following year.

After finishing last season with 13 straight wins, Queensland have reeled off eight more victories at the start of the current campaign.

They scored a 61-51 home win over Swifts, the only defeat this season for NSW, who also lost to the Firebirds in last year's final.

"I think they have definitely improved (since last year)," Thwaites said.

"(Shooter) Gretel Tippett is probably the biggest one we've seen improve in so many areas with her game and that adds a lot to their team.

"It's definitely a bit scary to see the premiership-winning team has improved and stepped up again, so that's great for everybody else to see that's the benchmark and that's the level we have to try and reach to try and beat that."

Thwaites emphasised the Swifts couldn't just leave it to inspirational defender Sharni Layton to try and nullify the Firebirds' prolific Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken, the competition's leading scorer.

"I think we probably need to treasure the ball a little bit more than what we did (last time we played Firebirds)," Thwaites said.

"With Romelda up the back and the ability they've got to feed the ball to her, it's really hard for our D to get as much ball as what they normally do.

"We need to tighten up every other area and just have a couple less errors and a couple more conversions on our turnovers."

Swifts have won three straight since losing in Brisbane, notching over 70 goals in two of those matches.

"The more years I spend with the `Birds, the more I feel the rivalry with the Swifts. I don't like losing to them," Firebirds' coach Roselee Jencke said.

Jencke hasn't experienced a loss to the Swifts for two years, with the Firebirds winning five and drawing one of their last six encounters.

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