Defending champions Queensland Firebirds remain hopeful of becoming the first team in the ANZ Championship history to qualify for the Finals Series the year after winning the premiership.
With just one round remaining the Firebirds, who sit in sixth place and just two points behind the WBOP Magic and Adelaide Thunderbirds in third and fourth place respectively, need to win and other results fall their way to secure a berth.
“Making finals would be an incredible achievement for this team, particularly after the start we had, and would put us in the position to defend our 2011 title,” Queensland Firebirds shooter Natalie Medhurst said.
“At the end of the day, whatever happens, we need to focus on performing well and coming away with a win, otherwise any thoughts about finals are a waste of time.”
Queensland travel to New Zealand to take on the WBOP Magic in Hamilton in the final round this weekend and need: a victory, a Thunderbirds loss to Canterbury Tactix, to bridge the 1.4 percentage gap with Adelaide, and for the Swifts to lose to the Mystics.
“You can get too caught up in things that you can’t control and we all need to make sure that we switch on to what we are actually setting out to do on court,” Medhurst said.
“We need to make sure we use the ball well, limit our turnovers and make the most of any mistakes that Magic make.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t do those things, then you are not going to be in a position to win the game, let alone by a particular margin.”
After going through last year undefeated, the Firebirds started their 2012 campaign with four losses in the first five rounds and looked destined to miss finals until a mid-season resurgence saw them back on track.
With just one loss and six victories, including five on the trot, the Firebirds are on the brink of ending the four year ANZ Championship hoodoo in which no championship winning team has qualified for the finals the following year.
Inaugural champions NSW Swifts finished in ninth the following year, 2009 premiers Melbourne Vixens finished in seventh the next year while the Adelaide Thunderbirds, winners in 2010, couldn’t finish any better than sixth.
The Firebirds can take confidence from their previous results in New Zealand with the team having never lost an ANZ Championship game on New Zealand soil under the guidance of coach Roselee Jencke.
“We know that we travel well over to New Zealand and we look at those trips in a really positive way, which certainly has an impact on our mental state when we arrive,” Medhurst said.
“We will certainly be greeted by a very parochial Magic crowd, but we will be trying to use that to spur us on and get us over the line.”
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