After coming so close in the years previous, just stumbling at that final hurdle, the Queensland Firebirds finally got that taste of success in 2015: the start of the Firebirds Dynasty. Goal shooter Romelda Aiken relives some of best and most nerve-wracking moments of the back to back premierships.
The Firebirds were full of stars, led by captain Laura Geitz and Clare Ferguson (née McMeniman) with young guns in Kim Ravaillion, Gretel Bueta (née Tippett) and Gabi Simpson.
Aiken spoke to The Inner Sanctum and relives the history making back-to-back Grand Finals.
After losing the 2013 and 2014 grand finals, going into the 2015 grand final there was a sense of anxiety amongst the squad.
“We were all very nervous,” Aiken told The Inner Sanctum.
“I think it was the most surreal atmosphere you could ever be across; I think for me personally… it was the build-up of like the hard work, the hype around the grand final.
“Playing against the NSW Swifts in 2015, that was so good, because years leading up to that we made grand finals, but we would always get beaten.
“During that time there was a different energy and a different vibe in the group. Our actions were a lot louder, everything we did was to be in the finals. We did everything we were supposed to do. It was mad and it was so much fun.”
2015 saw a young Gretel Bueta make the move from the Swifts to the Firebirds, and a dynamic combination was born.
“It was the first time playing with Gretel, it was so surreal to see such raw talent,” Aiken said.
“Just she changed the face of goal attacks, of the typical catch and pass. She added the lay ups which made the game more exciting.
“I think for me playing with her, it was so free that you had to think where the ball was going and that’s what threw most of the defenders off. She’s so versatile in what she was doing and that was super exciting, and [it] still is very exciting playing with her.”
More Netball News
In both games the Firebirds came up against the New South Wales Swifts, which saw Aiken matched up against a determined Sharni Norder (née Layton).
“It was so much fun because the whole time she was yelling at her teammates to slow the ball down and it was typical Sharni,” Aiken reflected.
“She goes hard at everything, but I find playing on Sharni [that] she really pushes you to make sure whatever ball you get it’s going to be contested. She was just fearless out there in court and so exciting to watch.
“Having the chance to come up against Sharni Layton, it was a privilege because we’ve played against each other and we kind of cancel each other out.
“It was kind of like what difference were each of us going to bring to the game. Which is always so fun and exciting because she’s always so unpredictable.”
Although both finals were thrilling matches, the 2016 grand final had an extra twist. Aiken scored the equalising goal with just seconds left on the clock, meaning the game would go into extra time.
“I was nervous that whole game, I do not remember looking at the clock once, I think I was just watching to see where the ball was going the whole time which just thinking about it makes me nervous all over again,” she said.
“In that moment when Gretel gave me the ball, I was like ‘you have it,’ because none of us wanted to have that pressure.
“Then when I got it and shot it everyone was running around, and I was like ‘oh my god I think we drew the game!’ We had to go into extra time… oh my god, that alone was panic.
“The was crowd was insane, the players were like ‘we just have to do what we do in training,’ and not follow the ball, but look to see where the ball was going.”
The 2016 grand final was filled with ups and down, and after the 10 minutes of extra time, scores were still tied up. Both teams were too good to separate.
The winner was then the first team that was out by two goals, and a goal from Aiken secured the Firebirds back-to-back premierships.
“I started crying because I felt like a little bit of me didn’t show up, but the girls really mentioned that like ‘Didi no matter what you do, if you shoot and miss go for the rebound and in that game’,” she said.
“I remember I was like ‘second shot, second shot’ but that ball was not leaving the circle. It just felt like a lot of loads was lifted off our shoulders once that final whistle went.”
Subscribe to our newsletter!