Two tweaks proved game changers for the Queensland Firebirds as they stretched a six-game unbeaten streak, with a 50-42 win over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Saturday.
Trailing by five goals at quarter time and three at half-time, a six-goal third quarter scoring run gave the Firebirds a 12-point turnaround that put them nine goals up and shifted the momentum.
Veteran defender Rebecca Bulley, who joined the Firebirds from the Thunderbirds this season, replaced in-form Clare McMeniman in the goal circle in the second half.
Bulley was one of five Firebirds to be included in Australia’s 18-player World Cup squad this week and made an immediate impact, completely shut down goal attack Ellen Halpenny.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jenckee said the ability to inject Bulley into the game, replacing Clare McMeniman, gave their defensive end an extra element.
“It’s really really competitive in that defence end as to who starts, who comes on and I think they all complement one another,” she said.
“To have the luxury of having Bec to be able to bring on to be able to provide something else is really really just excellent to have and something we probably haven’t had over the last couple of years when we’ve got to finals series.
Debutant Mahalia Cassidy was the first change for the Firebirds coming on for Caitlyn Nevins at quarter-time.
The 19-year-old was brought into the Queensland squad as replacement for injured wing attack Verity Simmons and played for the side in the pre-season.
The teen was as surprised as anyone when told she was getting a run in second quarter but Jenckee said it was a gamble that paid off.
“It probably took her a little while but I was absolutely rapt with the way she finished off the game and her combination with Rav (Kimberley Ravaillion) and some of the balls she gave Romelda .
“To have her out there, we took a punt and it worked really really well.”
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander was watching the match and the Firebirds contingent in that squad – Laura Geitz, McMeniman, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson and Bulley.
Queensland’s ferocity at the ball and pace in the third quarter beat out the more physical Magic as they stretched the lead.
Magic goal defence Leana De Bruin minimised the impact of Firebirds’ goal attack Gretel Tippett but shooter Romelda Aiken (40/48) was at her damaging best, stamping her authority on the game late.
The Firebirds are yet to drop a match since their season opener against the West Coast Fever, with five wins and a draw.
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