Queensland Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke says this year’s trans-Tasman netball title is anyone’s heading into this weekend’s semi-finals.
Queensland may be the team of the moment, but coach Roselee Jencke says the trans-Tasman netball championship finals series is wide open.
The Firebirds ended the regular season with six straight victories and are the only side in semi-final action this weekend to have won their last-round fixture.
They face minor premiers the Melbourne Vixens on Monday for a place in the grand final, with the loser getting a second chance against the winner of Sunday’s minor semi between NSW Swifts and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
Jencke is predicting tight results all-round and doesn’t believe her side’s high-flying form puts them in the box seat for the 2014 title.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage at all,” Jencke said.
“The home-and-away rounds are all over; when it gets to finals it’s very equal.
“We know that from past experience it doesn’t matter whether you finish top or fourth, you still have as much chance of making the grand final as if you finished third or second.
“We came from fourth last year and nobody thought that we’d be able to make a grand final – but we were able to do it.
“You can’t discount anybody.
“It’s the team that’s going to work the hardest and be the most stoic that’s going to get through to the grand final and win the premiership.”
The Firebirds have won the only previous finals meeting between the two championship-winning sides – last year’s preliminary final in Melbourne.
But the Vixens, who have sat inside the top four all season, boast a superior record at home.
“The Vixens are definitely the favourites. They’ve had consistency right throughout the season,” Jencke said.
“It’s going to be a great game and a huge challenge for us.”
Both the Swifts and Magic head into their knockout final on the back of defeat – the Swifts missing out on the minor premiership with a loss to the Northern Mystics, while the Magic were toppled by the Firebirds.
The Swifts will have the advantage of a home crowd at Olympic Park, but also carry the burden of being title favourites at the season’s start.
In that one Jencke is backing the Magic, the only franchise to have made the semi-finals every year since the league started in 2008.
“They’re going to topple anyone,” she said.