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Firebirds eye top-four on netball ladder
Adrian Warren
16:33 AEST Fri Jun 8 2012

The surging Queensland Firebirds have given themselves a fighting chance of making trans-Tasman netball history, but a loss to fellow heavyweights Adelaide this Sunday could spoil their dreams.

No defending premiers have ever made the finals the following year and Queensland looked like upholding that dubious tradition after losing four of their first five games.

But the Firebirds have forced their way into fourth spot on the back of five straight wins.

"Nobody wants us there (in the finals) because they know if we are playing at our best, we're hard to beat," Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke told AAP.

With just four rounds remaining, only four points separate the top seven teams.

The Melbourne Vixens (14 points) lead the ladder on percentage from New Zealand's Northern Mystics.

However, the Vixens have a bye this week and the Mystics should win at home to lowly fellow Kiwi side the Southern Steel (four points) in Auckland on Monday.

The blockbuster of the round brings together the third-placed Thunderbirds and Firebirds (both 12) in Adelaide in front of a capacity crowd.

The winner in Adelaide consolidates a top-four spot, but the loser will probably drop out.

Fifth-placed Swifts (12) will leap above the loser in Adelaide if they win in Perth on Sunday against West Coast (four), who have lost their past five games.

Adding to the pressure in Adelaide, the winner of the all-New Zealand battle between the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic and Central Pulse (both 10) in Tauranga on Sunday will also move up to 12 points.

The Thunderbirds have lost their last two games to fall from top spot, but coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson refuses to contemplate the possibility of dropping out of the top four.

"We can't afford to think like that, we must always think positively," Woodlands-Thompson told AAP.

Veteran Vixens defender Bianca Chatfield isn't concerned her team will lose top spot because they have a bye.

"For us, I think it's come at a good time. We definitely are ready for a break, and it's good for the girls to rest their bodies," Chatfield told AAP.

The Swifts head to Perth without shooter Carla Dziwoki (fever) and wing defence Jo Sutton (back) after the Firebirds ended their their six-match winning streak.

Fever coach Norma Plummer says her team have the tactics to upset the Swifts and record their first win over an Australian team in six attempts this season.


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