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Thrilling end to trans-Tasman netball comp

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/07/2016 Adrian Warren

Netball's version of the irresistible force and immovable object will clash in a potentially thrilling final round of the trans-Tasman competition.

The order and identities of the top-three Australian conference teams to go into the finals series still have to be determined.

First-placed NSW Swifts and defending champions Queensland Firebirds are level on points.

They are separated by just four per cent with NSW holding a 29-goal superior for-and-against.

The Swifts host unbeaten New Zealand conference leaders Southern Steel on Saturday.

The Firebirds go a day later at home to West Coast Fever, who will need to win to claim the third and last Australian conference finals spot.

They are equal on points with Melbourne Vixens, who are three per cent and 21 goals worse off going into an easier final-round fixture away to the struggling Pulse in Wellington.

Pulse still have some hope of joining the Steel and the Magic as the New Zealand conference finals series contestants if they beat Vixens, as they are level on points with the Mystics and Tactix, who meet in Auckland.

"You couldn't have planned it any better really, could you,?" Swifts defender Sharni Layton said of the final-round draw.

"For us, it's a really exciting game coming into finals. It's going to really test us to see where we're at.

"You want to be coming up against the best at the end of the year, because you want to see how you're going and we don't really know."

Australian Diamonds' defender Layton's duel with the Steel's prolific Jamaican shooter Jhaniele (Jhaniele) Fowler-Reid could be a vital factor in the outcome at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

Fowler-Reid needs only 37 goals for a competition season-record tally of 668, overhauling the 2013 mark set by Jamaican compatriot and Firebirds sharpshooter Romelda Aiken.

The Steel spearhead leads the league in rebounds, while tenacious defender Layton, who is 11cm smaller, tops the competition in deflections and intercepts.

Fowler-Reid has added another dimension to her game this season, according to Layton.

"She is arguably up there as the hardest shooter to play on, probably there with her Jamaican mate Romelda," Layton said.

"In previous years, what would have differentiated Romelda and Jhaniele would have been the athleticism of Romelda but, this year, Jhaniele has that as well and really developed as a player.

"She's been moving more this year. She's been taking longer shots which means she's got more confidence in herself."

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