Giants fumble shot at netball's top spot

The Queensland Firebirds have upset the Giants in Super Netball to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Queensland Firebirds have upset the Giants in Super Netball to keep their finals hopes alive.

Doubt has crept into the Giants campaign, with their promising Super Netball season now looking shaky after a 63-52 loss to the Queensland Firebirds.

A win at Melbourne's John Cain Arena would have launched the expansion side into first place but they were instead taught a lesson in desperation by Gabi Simpson's Firebirds.

The Giants were the early pacesetters this season and topped the ladder after winning their first four games.

Since the arrival of winter their campaign has wilted after losing four of their past five outings, including being put in their place by top-four outfits, West Coast Fever, the NSW Swifts and the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Fifth-placed Queensland's third win gave them a mathematical chance of sneaking into the finals and for that they can thank a composed midcourt clinic from Kim Ravaillion and a fierce defensive performance from Simpson and Tara Hinchliffe.

Hinchliffe earlier this year earned promotion to the Australian Diamonds squad and she refused to be intimidated in her showdown with Giants matchwinner Jo Harten who was restricted to 20 goals at 69 per cent accuracy.

"We've come back refreshed from two weeks off and really enjoying it in the hub and I think you saw that out on court," Hinchliffe said.

"I didn't touch a ball in the third quarter because my teammates were winning it on front of me.

"So I think that full-court pressure came to fruition with me."

Firebirds goalers Romelda Aiken (39) and Gretel Bueta (23) made the most of the opportunities handed to them from ball won by their defenders.

So confidently did the Firebirds start, they had the luxury of handing a debut to Ruby Bakewell-Doran and the young defender justified the decision with an early deflection.

Defenders Hinchliffe, Simpson and Kim Jenner harassed their opponents into a heap of first half turnovers.

Their energy and relentlessness rattled the Giants, while inaccuracy from Giants pair Harten and Sophie Dwyer affected their side's chances of clinging to the Queenslanders.

Hinchliffe was the sharpest dagger in the Giants' side. Facing Harten, one of the most prolific shooters in the competition's history, she stood up to the English star, grabbing eight gains and keeping her penalty count to a measly seven over the first three quarters.

Australian Associated Press