Firebirds get to the point of it all
Queensland Firebirds star Gretel Tippett admits to not being initially enamoured with the introduction of the new Super Netball points system.
For the first time in domestic netball, teams have this year not only been playing for the game win, but also quarters, with bonus points up for grabs.
"At first I was a little bit sceptical," the goal attack said.
"It took us a little while to get our heads around it ... I thought you'd have to be a mathematician to work it all out.
"But it's worked out, made this whole competition super exciting.
"The good thing about the points system is every 15 minutes you start again. You both have the opportunity to win a point.
"It keeps you really honest during the game. Every 15 minutes the slate is wiped clean and we start again. You can't have too many ebbs and flows."
Heading into what promises to be an enthralling final round, the Firebirds sit fourth. They have the same number of wins as the fifth-placed Vixens, but have five additional, "all- important" bonus points.
They host the visiting Magpies today in Brisbane, needing a win to guarantee them a place in the final four.
They could yet finish as high as second or as low as fifth.
"We'd love to make finals on our own terms and not rely on other results," Tippett said.
"The only thing we can control is our own performance.
"If we don't win this game we don't deserve to make finals."
For the three-time champions in the old trans-Tasman ANZ Championship, it would be a return to where they belong.
They missed the finals last season after the departure of Laura Geitz (pregnancy), Clare McMeniman (retirement) and Kim Ravaillion (Magpies).
Veteran Geitz has of course returned to help shore up the defence.
"We lost our captain, our vice-captain and main centre court ... pretty much half our team. It takes you a while to find your feet when that happens," Tippett said.
"Having Geitzy back ... she is so calm and confident. She's given me a lot of confidence this year.
"She inspires us down the other end. When she gets a turnover we think to ourselves, 'Oh my gosh, we have got to make this count, she's worked so hard to get that turnover.'"
Tippett has collected five game MVP awards this season, highlighting a career-best year for the Australian Diamond.
"I want to be better than I was the week before," Tippett said.
"You play your best netball when you're having fun out there. I'm having so much fun this year."
The partnership with goalscoring queen Romelda Aiken, has never been stronger.
"We talk a lot," Tippett said.
"We know teams are going to come at us hard - we don't expect anything less.
"We know that in order to absorb that pressure and play our best netball we need to stay connected."
While the seventh-placed Magpies have no chance of making the finals, the Firebirds won't take them lightly as they aim for a fourth successive win.
The Melbourne-based team is preparing to send off three champions in Sharni Layton, Erin Bell and Shae Brown, and are 3-0 in games against the hosts.
"They've got a stellar team and very well drilled. We've got to bring our A game, that's for sure," Tippett said.
"Sharnie is an exceptional player. I'm going to miss playing with (her in the Diamonds) and against her.
"I know she'll be bringing her best to try and finish on a high."