RISING Firebirds star Mahalia Cassidy says the competition's new teams have helped take the target off the back of netball's defending champions.
The Firebirds will kickstart their championship defence on Saturday, February 18, in the new, all-Australian Suncorp Super Netball competition.
With the split of the ANZ Championship, the Firebirds no longer have their various New Zealand opponents but will instead face their old Australian foes as well as three new sides - Collingwood, the Giants and Queensland rivals the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Cassidy says with most of the attention on those teams, the Firebirds will not be the biggest targets in the game despite having won the last two ANZ Championship titles.
"What the Firebirds have done in the past two years has been phenomenal and it is incredible but it's a new competition so it's a whole new game now," she said.
"There's three brand new teams that are packed with incredible players of a high calibre. Every team is going to be really, really hard to meet. For some, we're not quite sure what they'll bring.
"We have to stick to our game and do what we know best.
"We don't look or dwell on what we've done in the past. We just want to continue the legacy of the Firebirds."
The Firebirds are also expected to have their own unknown element this year following the loss of Clare McMeniman (retirement), Laura Geitz (pregnant) and Kim Ravaillion (Collingwood).
These changes have opened the door for Cassidy to claim the centre position.
Having spent last year on the bench, the 21-year-old is ready for her breakout season.
"It's a big year for me to get out there and make a name for myself," she said.
"I want to play good netball every week and do that consistently across the whole season. I really want to cement my spot and be dominant in that mid-court role.
"I'm chomping at the bit to get out there."
The Firebirds will open their season against newcomers the Sunshine Coast at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.