Players head to New Zealand for key season game
SOUTHERN Downs defenders Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman will be in New Zealand this weekend for one of the most important games of the Mission Queensland Firebirds season.
Both have combined brilliantly for the Firebirds this season after playing for the Australian Youth team which won a bronze medal at the world championships in Florida a decade ago.
They also played for the Canberra Darters when at the AIS in Canberra but are now as Queensland as you would find as they play for the Firebirds and shared premiership success in 2011.
Geitz is originally from Allora and McMeniman played her first netball at Warwick West State School.
This weekend, the defenders will be hoping dynamic mid-court duo of Gabi Simpson and Kim Ravaillion will keep to their work and make it the last Tasman crossing for the team in 2014, with the winner hosting a home semi-final.
"A year or so ago I would not have even dreamt of being in an ANZ Championship team let alone in a final series and now it looks like I could be heading into my second one," Simpson said.
In 2013, Firebirds defender Simpson had a blinder in the minor Semi-Final over the Magic, which was not only her and housemate Kim Ravaillion's first finals appearance, but both were debutants in the ANZ Championship.
In what many experienced players would describe as a daunting experience the debutants were understandably both nervous but Simpson said it was an amazing learning experience and something she will draw on for the finals intensity match this weekend against the Magic, with a year of experience under her bib.
"That Semi-Final last year was definitely nothing I have ever experienced before, it was exciting more than anything. I remember when we first got to the courts and it had the finals series sticker on the floor, it was like a pinch me moment that I was actually there," Simpson said.
"And then to win that do-or-die game was really exciting and to now have those experiences to draw on gives you that extra confidence leading in to the business end of the season, it is a more of a known environment," she said.
"For us we have had to put out finals intensity netball for the past five weeks and I have no doubt Magic will be putting out that same intensity as they will want to host that Minor Semi-Final just as much as we do, which is exciting and what you play for," Simpson said.
Knowing what she knows now Simpson would love nothing more than to experience finals netball at home in front of the team's loyal fans.
"It would be fabulous to play at home! I think leading into the Grand Final last year we played six games in a row, so to be at home with the support of your home crowd and not getting booed when you do something good will be a big boost if that does occur,'' Simpson said.
"Playing at home also allows you to be in a more calm and relaxed environment and takes a little bit of pressure off finals netball," she said.
Simpson has one memory that remains from the 2013 Minor Semi-Final when nerves almost got the better of her and Ravaillion.
"I just remember being outrageously nervous, everything was so new and exciting for us. I remember a point during the game where Kim and I looked at each other and we both had these scared looks on our faces. Geitzy walked up and gave Kim a big hug and she relaxed and played out the rest of the game," Simpson said.
Simpson said the team bond and support has gone from strength to strength in 2014 and puts this down to one of the reasons behind the success of the new young Firebirds.
"The team that we have this season is so supportive, it feels like no matter what you put out on the court everyone trusts you and believes in you and if you don't have a good game there are so many people to back you up," Simpson said.
"I think that is a lot of the reason behind our success this season, the trust we have in each other and the respect has made us improve every week and that is what makes playing for the Firebirds special," she said.