Jets confident for double shot at finals' reward
A SHOT of confidence, stable team and improved fitness have two Jets teams motivated to make grand finals in Netball Queensland's exciting new leagues.
In the first year of Sapphires and Ruby Series competition, the newly-formed Jets combinations have toiled hard to qualify for Sunday's preliminary finals at the Queensland State Netball Centre.
Both Jets sides face highly regarded QUT opponents, having finished the 12-game regular season in third place behind the Wildcats.
Jets Sapphire Series co-captain Stephanie O'Brien senses the Ipswich-based sides were more than capable of securing grand final spots after last weekend's impressive semi-final successes.
The Jets Sapphires produced one of their best performances of the season to eliminate the Bull Sharks 73-43.
The Jets Rubies beat the Cougars 57-54 in extra time.
Apart from the commitment and tenacity of her teammates, O'Brien praised Jets fitness and conditioning coach Freya Greensill for her work sharpening up the players in both sides, who regularly train together.
"I was really glad to see them (the Rubies) push through and grind through and their fitness pulled them through,'' O'Brien said.
"They just kept going and the other team pretty much stopped.
"Freya has done a great job.''
Leading the team along with defender Siobhan Shirlaw, mid-court regular O'Brien said last weekend's victory was timely.
"It was nice to get a full game together . . . and get the confidence leading into a big game,'' O'Brien said.
The Bremer State High School HPE teacher said after a couple of tough losses, "it was good to bounce back''.
"Everyone did their individual jobs and we came together really well,'' she said.
Previous honours between Sunday's opponents in the Sapphire Series were shared with the Jets beating QUT 56-48 in round five before the Wildcats got up 50-45 in round 11.
Both teams won eight matches, with the Wildcats securing a draw to gain a slight advantage.
The Jets South Ruby team have a similar record against QUT, preparing for their preliminary final. The Jets Rubies defeated QUT 58-46 in round five, going down 56-51 in round 11.
"They are a team that's really hard on to the ball and we need to be really smart on what we do with the ball,'' O'Brien said, preparing for her battle at 6.10pm.
"If we can be smart and not play into their hands, we'll be fine. We'll have a really good crack at it.''
With no injuries, the Jets will field the same team that overpowered the Bull Sharks to set up a duel with the Wildcats.
"It is really good to have that consistency every week,'' O'Brien said.
"We've looked at the video and we've come up with strategies to combat what they put out there.
"Hopefully that will all pay off if we can come out and play a full 60 minutes like we did last week.''
Former goal attack O'Brien has settled into a mid-court role this season, watching as rising talent Charlie Bell has stepped up in the shooting circle.
"Charlie's been outstanding for such a young player,'' O'Brien said of the 18-year-old who stands 197cm tall.
O'Brien said it was "truly amazing'' to see her improving each week and "standing up strong''.
"She can take a lot of hits and she's done really well.''
After retaining her place in Netball Queensland's Elite Development Program, Bell was chosen in the state under-19 squad after the recent Queensland championships.
O'Brien said having players like Bell stepping up provide a positive balance in the Jets team, which has many experienced players from the West Brisbane Lions side that reached last year's grand final in the former competition. The Lions lost to Cougars by seven.
"If we made it again, it would be a grand final rematch from last year,'' she said.
The table-topping Cougars advanced directly to the grand final after beating QUT 48-46 in their semi-final.
Being on school holidays, O'Brien coached the Jets under-18 side that came seventh at the state titles. The club's under-16 outfit finished fourth.
Working with players of the future is something O'Brien enjoys.
However, O'Brien hopes her team's overall commitment to each other is what proves decisive in Sunday's preliminary final.
And having two teams in preliminary finals augurs well for the future.
"It's really outstanding,'' O'Brien said of the Jets club performance this season.
"We've trained alongside the Rubies all year and we're really close like that and I'm really glad to see them stand up.''
Sapphire Series preliminary final: Sunday (6.10pm) - Ipswich Jets v QUT Wildcats at Queensland State Netball Centre.
Ruby South Series preliminary final: Sunday (4.20pm) - Ipswich Jets v QUT at Queensland State Netball Centre.