The Firebirds' Caitlyn Nevins (right) in action against Shae Brown of the Magpies in round 14 last year. Picture: Darren England/AAP
The Firebirds' Caitlyn Nevins (right) in action against Shae Brown of the Magpies in round 14 last year. Picture: Darren England/AAP

Firebirds look ahead after the pain of last year's exit

DON'T let the pre-game antics in the change rooms fool you. The Firebirds mean business.

With her side to face the Melbourne Vixens in today's Super Netball opener against the Melbourne Vixens, midcourter Caitlyn Nevins admits there's usually "a good sing and dance" before each game.

"Everyone has their own routine. We respect each other's needs," the 31-year-old explained.

"Some players need to listen to music and get really excited and pumped that way. Some of the girls just need to chill and conserve their energy.

"We just go about our business in our own way, but there's a lot of singing in our change room and a lot of different genres of music.

"Seems to work fairly well for our team."

It'll be a nice change from the final buzzer of last year's elimination semi-final ringing in their ears for most of the off-season.

When it sounded, they were one point behind Queensland rival the Sunshine Coast Lightning, who would go on to claim a second successive premiership in the second year of the competition.

It was one of five one-goal losses suffered by the team last season.

 

Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke lays down the law to her players last season.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke lays down the law to her players last season.

"It was devastating, that one-goal loss ... it certainly was very painful," Nevins recalled.

"But there's been a lot of time between now and then.

"We've grieved and also learnt a few things, and are just looking ahead to 2019."

Looking for atonement, the Firebirds made a false start in the preseason #TeamGirls Cup on their new home court at the Queensland State Netball Centre.

Nevins missed the tournament with an ankle injury as her side looked off the pace.

"We were disappointed with how we performed throughout that weekend, but it was a great wake-up call that you can't just expect to win - you have to put the hard work in," she said, "and since then we've trained with brilliant intensity and great purpose.

"We're putting each other under pressure ... game- specific pressure with every single training session.

"We've lifted our work effort substantially over the last two weeks. We're ready for the challenge ahead."

The Firebirds have been forced to farewell the great Laura Geitz for the last time.

But her legacy will live on - and not just through the statue that adorns the front of their new stadium in Brisbane.

Rising stars Tara Hinchliffe, Kim Jenner and Laura Clemesha will aim to do her proud in the purple, while led by skipper Gabi Simpson.

"Geitzy has played a great mentoring role to the defenders," Nevins said.

"They've been under Laura's wing now for a few years. They are ready to step up."

Caitlyn Nevins (C) is starring on the court...
Caitlyn Nevins (C) is starring on the court...

 

Up the other end, Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett remain the go-to players in attack. The Firebirds will just need to provide them with enough supply.

Nevins acknowledges it would not be easy first-up against the Vixens, the team she helped win the 2014 ANZ Championship before playing in two more premierships with the Firebirds (2015, 2016).

The Melbourne side beat the Firebirds by 21 goals in their #TeamGirls Cup clash last month.

"Vixens play a really tight one-on-one defence ... they really grind you down," Nevins said.

"They work you really hard for the whole 60 minutes."

The Roselee Kencke-coached Firebirds will be at home for their round-two clash with the Magpies - the first game at their "phenomenal" $44 million stadium.

Suffice to say there will be plenty of chanting and singing that night from the 5000 Firebirds fans.

"We have such a fantastic supporter base," Nevins said.

"The noise of the crowd is only going to add to that intimidation factor for opposing teams coming to our home court.

"Obviously it comes down to how you perform on court, but it's amazing how the atmosphere and the support out there can lift you in crucial moments."

News Corp Australia


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