In the Spotlight: Grand Final Preview 2011

Champion Data, Wednesday, 18 May 2011.

Queensland Firebirds (1) v LG Mystics (4)
Sunday 22 May, 2:30pm AEST
Brisbane Convention & Entertainment Centre

 

Sunday will see the city of Brisbane become the fourth Australian city in as many seasons of the ANZ Championship to host the Grand Final.  The 2011 decider will be a game of firsts for other reasons too.  It will be the first time in ANZ Championship history that a team will be playing for the title of 'undefeated' in a single season.  It will be the first time a team from fourth position has made it through to the decider.  It is also the first time both the Firebirds and Mystics have made the final match of the season, meaning one team will be crowned ANZ Champion for the very first time.

With the simple fact that it is 1 vs. 4, you could be excused for thinking that the match might be a walk over.  The fourth placed Mystics, however, are on an incredible run of seven wins from eight matches which includes their first ever win on Australian soil in Round 9 against the West Coast Fever then backed up by character building away victories to both the NSW Swifts (second win on Australian soil) in the Minor Semi-Final and the WBOP Magic in the Preliminary Final.  Both teams have attacking and defensive strengths across the entire court, so as any Grand Final deserves, this game will no doubt be the highlight of the season.

Head to Head

4 matches Firebirds 4, Mystics 0
Round 7, 2011 Mystics 52 def by Firebirds 61 (The Trusts Stadium, Auckland)
Round 4, 2010 Firebirds 71 def Mystics 54 (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane)
Round 13, 2009 Mystics 57 def by Firebirds 59 (The Trusts Stadium, Auckland)
Round 4, 2008 Firebirds 46 def Mystics 40 (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane)

 

Both teams' overall win/loss ratio sees the Firebirds slightly ahead.  Over the past two seasons the Firebirds have played 27 games for 21 wins and 6 losses.  Their biggest winning margin is 43 against the Canterbury Tactix in 2010, a match where the Firebirds scored a massive 75 goals. Over the same two season period the Mystics have played 28 games for 18 wins and 10 losses.  Their biggest winning margin is 19, also against the Tactix in 2010, where they scored 62 goals.

Shooting

  • The Firebirds' Romelda Aiken scores an average of 34.9 goals per match whereas Cathrine Latu from the LG Mystics scores 28.6 goals per match.  However Aiken misses an average 5.6 goals per match compared to an unbelievably low 2.1 per match for Latu.
  • The WBOP Magic had more attempts at goal than the Mystics in the Preliminary Final (50 compared to 47) but Latu and Maria Tutaia incredibly only missed two shots each and were successful on 43 occasions (shooting percentage of 91.4%).
  • During the home and away season, the Firebirds have scored 332 goals at home (55.3 per game) and the Mystics have scored 363 goals away from home (51.9 per game).
  • Despite both Goal Attacks often being overshadowed by their shooting partners, the Firebirds Goal Attack Natalie Medhurst has a shooting percentage of 83.6% (316/378) and the Mystics Goal Attack Maria Tutaia has a shooting percentage of 78.6% (323/411), clearly indicating their shooting is a danger in itself to any opposition defence.
  • The shooting unit for the Firebirds (Aiken and Medhurst) scored 804 from 945 attempts with a shooting percentage of only 85.1%.  The Mystics shooting unit (Latu and Tutaia) scored 752 from 872 attempts with a shooting percentage of 86.2%.

Scoring Zone

  • The Firebirds have scored 86% of goals (698) from underneath or close to the ring (short zone), and have successfully converted 110 long bombs for a 71.9% success rate.
  • Aiken has scored 474 goals underneath or close to the ring (86.8% accuracy) but only 14 goals from the long range (66.6% accuracy).
  • Medhurst has taken 128 long range shots with 95 hitting their target (74.2%) compared to Aiken's 21 attempts.

 

  • The Mystics are shooting an amazing 32% of goals from the long bomb area (247) and have scored 529 goals from underneath the ring at an accuracy of 92.5%.
  • Latu has scored 417 goals in the short zone (94.1% accuracy) and only 12 goals from the long range (66.6% accuracy).
  • Tutaia eclipses all other shooters in the competition from the long bomb area, scoring 224 goals from 301 attempts at an accuracy of 74.4%, indicating Tutaia is dangerous anywhere in the shooting circle.

 

 

Centre Pass Receives

  • The Firebirds have two clear standouts for winning the Centre Pass Receives.  Medhurst, with 231, ranked second overall for the competition in 2011 after the home and away season.  She was closely followed by Chelsea Pitman with 205, ranked fourth overall.  After the Major Semi-Final they now have 243 and 226 respectively.  The third highest ranked Firebirds player is Keirra Trompf with only 68 after the Semi.
  • The Mystics spread the wealth more evenly with four players having recorded over 100 centre pass receives.  Tutaia finished the regular season in ninth position for the competition with 181 but now has 210 after her two finals matches.  Along with Tutaia, Megan Dehn (144), Grace Rasmussen (130) and Kayla Cullen (111) are all options from the centre pass.

Intercepts

  • After the regular home and away season, the Firebirds were the highest ranked team for intercepts, taking 100 overall. Statistically dominant Goal Defence Laura Geitz took just under half of them herself, finishing with 45.  Not surprisingly she is leading the competition by a massive 15 intercepts.  She took a further seven in the semi-final to currently sit on 52. If she takes another seven in the Grand Final she will finish the year with more intercepts than the entire West Coast Fever squad did during the regular season (58). Amy Steel is the next best interceptor for the Firebirds with 23.
  • The Mystics as a team finished the regular season in third position with 92 intercepts.  Like the Firebirds they have a clear leader, with Anna Scarlett finishing the home and away season with 30 (equal second for the competition).  She has had a quiet finals series so far, however, with only one intercept to her name.  Cullen (19), Rachel Rasmussen (13) and Temepara George (12) also feature for the Mystics when intercepts are concerned.

Deflections

  • Deflections are a statistic where the Grand Final teams could not be separated after Round 12, both finishing the season with 212 deflections in equal fourth place, eight behind the West Coast Fever. Not surprisingly Geitz and Scarlett lead the way for their respective teams.
  • Geitz finished the home and away season with 82 deflections ranking her second overall and behind All Stars Team nemesis Leana de Bruin with 87.  Unlike de Bruin, who cannot add to her season tally, Geitz picked up a further seven in the semi-final and will no doubt push the 100 deflections mark during the Grand Final, needing to record only 11 more.  Steel (34), Trompf (31), Medhurst (21) and Clare McMeniman (20) also feature for the Firebirds.
  • Scarlett was sitting just behind Geitz in third for the regular season, recording 84. She has since added another five to be equal with Geitz on 89 deflections for the season. So at either end of the court there will be a deflection shootout to see who can crack 100 first. Cullen (51), George (22) and Joline Henry (22) also know how to get a fingertip to the ball.

Rebounds

  • Rebounds are another statistic that the Firebirds have a slight advantage over their Grand Final opponents.  However individually there is one player that has streaked the field in total rebounds.  Romelda Aiken (GS) is a rebounding machine, recording 60 for the home and away season and sitting 23 in front of her nearest rivals.
  • Out of the 115 rebounds that have been taken by Firebirds players during the 12 rounds of season 2011, Aiken has taken over half of those.  Geitz (GK) is not to be dismissed either with 35 during the regular season and 37 after the semi-final.
  • The Mystics (96) also have strength at both ends of the court with Latu (GS) and Scarlett (GK) securing 37 and 32 rebounds respectively after the home and away season. After the two finals matches this has changed only slightly with Latu taking an additional three and Scarlett one.

Pickups

  • The Mystics are the best team in the competition for loose ball pickups with 183.  They are a clear leader, recording 23 more than second best team the Melbourne Vixens.  The Firebirds only have 135 loose ball pickups for the home and away season.
  • The Firebirds finished the normal season with only two players having more than 20 pickups. Steel (25) and Medhurst (23) lead the way for the Firebirds.  No Firebirds player featured in the Top 10 of the competition.
  • The Mystics on the other hand have two players in the Top 10 for the competition with Scarlett (34) in second and George (30) in sixth.  Cullen (25) and Henry (20) have raked up over 20 as well.  So if the ball is loose on the ground there is a good chance a Mystics player will be fighting for it.

Turnover

  • Turnovers are an area where the Mystics show a deficiency, unfortunately leading the competition with 278.  The Firebirds, on the other hand, are ranked ninth for the competition with 212.  This however is one statistic where the lower you are ranked the better.  The Grand Final will see the three players that turn the ball over more than any of the 123 players in the competition.
  • The Firebirds finished the regular season with 212 turnovers which equates to an average of 16.3 per game.  The main culprit is Aiken with 53, who is ranked third overall.  She only produced three in the semi to currently have 56 turnovers to her name.  Her shooting partner in Medhurst is ranked second for the Firebirds with 38 (41 after the semi) but considering Medhurst's hands see the ball more than almost any other player in the competition this is quiet remarkable.
  • Unfortunately the Mystics have the two most prolific turnover merchants in the game with Latu (73) and George (58).  Not surprising considering her involvement, the Mystics Goal Attack Tutaia has the third highest turnover rate with 32 but that only equates to just over 2 per game (2.1).
  • The story the turnover stat tells us is that if you can apply sustained pressure on both shooters they are prone to turn the ball over.  With both defensive units being on top of their game at the moment this sustained pressure will no doubt happen on Sunday so the shooters will need to be careful with their hands and decision making.

Penalties

  • There is nothing between the two teams when it comes to giving away penalties with only seven penalties separating the Firebirds and the Mystics during the home and away season.  The Firebirds finished with 795 while the Mystics gave away 802.  Going into the Grand Final the Firebirds have given away 868 (62 per game) and the Mystics have given away 937 (62.5 per game).
  • Geitz is the main culprit for the Firebirds.  She finished the regular season with 221 (160 Contacts, 61 Obstructions) which ranked her second for the competition (she now has 245).  Steel (136) and Trompf (108) are the only other players from the Firebirds with more than 100.
  • Scarlett is the most aggressive player from the Mystics with 197 (130 Contacts, 67 Obstructions) which ranked her fourth in the competition.  Going into the Grand Final Scarlett has 224 to her name.  Other notable penalty givers are Cullen (123), R.Rasmussen (115) and George (105).

Statistically, the Queensland Firebirds have a slight advantage over the LG Mystics going into this season's decider.  However the Mystics are game hardened, with great away victories against the Swifts (5 goals) and the WBOP Magic (1 goal).  In comparison, the Firebirds have had a relatively easy path leading into the Grand Final, with an effortless away win against the Canterbury Tactix (17 goals) in Round 12 and a comfortable 11 goal victory over the WBOP Magic in the Major Semi-Final.

On average, the Firebirds have won at home 55-43 this season.  Compare this to the Mystics' away record, which is an average win of 47-51, so you could be confident of a home team victory by 55-51.  It can't be this simple, however, and come Sunday all the statistics, team reputations and competition history account for nothing as these two great sides go head to head with the ultimate club Netball prize on offer.

Both sides have unbelievably good shooting options, while they both also have defensive ends that could be argued as the best in the league.  So with the ends of the court an even affair, this may indicate that the game is most likely to be won in a midcourt battle.  The one thing we do know, however, is that we will most definitely have a new Champion team on Sunday.  Will it be the first team to ever go through an entire season undefeated?  Or will we see a New Zealand lift the trophy as champions for the first time?  Either way, I know I will be court side.

So if you can't be court side like the lucky 3,600 fans that will pack out the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on Sunday, make sure you park yourself in front of your television for what will be the highlight of the 2011 Netball Calendar!  (Yeah, I know the World Champs are on this year, but the ANZ Championship is what it is all about!).  Good luck to both sides!