Sunday 6 June officially marks Queensland Day, so it is only apt to see Sunshine Coast Lightning take on the Queensland Firebirds to commemorate the occasion.
The healthy rivalry between the two sides only continues to grow year on year and while Lightning have had their measure since 2018, they will not be underestimating a wounded Firebirds this week.
Lightning player Maddy McAuliffe said she anticipates a physical contest in the state derby.
“Firebirds is always such an intense match,” McAuliffe said.
“There’s a bit of Queensland pride in the game and both teams always show up, I feel like there’s a real physical presence on court.
“We are very much looking forward to the weekend and it’s going to be high intensity.”
When reviewing the Firebirds lineup McAuliffe said there were multiple areas of the court to watch out for.
While their attack end boasts experience in Romelda Aiken and the return of Gretel Bueta, there are emerging combinations through the midcourt and defence that need to be shut down.
“I think their defensive side in Kim [Jenner] and Tara [Hinchliffe], they’ve really built a formidable pairing over the past couple of years and that’s a strength for them,” she said.
“Having Rav [Kim Ravaillion] back in the midcourt settles them and she’s got great pace down the court and is strong in defence and attack.
“They’ve got a good team and great versatility on the bench, so it will be a good match on the weekend.”
McAuliffe said every match in the competition this season has the potential to be a danger game, with sides more evenly matched in 2021 despite ladder position.
Round 5 highlighted that moreso with three games decided by 2 goals or less – including both the Lightning and Firebirds games.
“I think every team is a top 4 side at the moment – everyone has the potential, it’s really about who shows up on the day,” she said.
“You have to be on you’re A-game every weekend.
“Firebirds could definitely be up there and it only takes a few wins do to do that – the ladder is still pretty close.
“For us we have to focus on each game, make sure we get the wins where we can and put ourselves in a good position for finals.”