MY BALL! Gretel Tippett of the Firebirds and Sharni Layton fight for the ball.
MY BALL! Gretel Tippett of the Firebirds and Sharni Layton fight for the ball. Bradley Kanaris

Tippett faces her Origin in Firebirds final

It's round four of State of Origin 2016 - this time with a round ball - when the Firebirds host the NSW Swifts in the Australian conference final at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre tonight.

The match-ups between these teams are always fierce, and Queensland's goal attack Gretel Tippett is super-passionate about them.

"We definitely call it the netball version of State of Origin," the Gold Coast-born former Swifts player told Australian Regional Media. "We love playing the Swifts. Every time we front up against them it's a hard fight right until the end."

She'll have the full support of brother Kurt, even though he's a superstar for the Sydney Swans in the AFL.

"My family is from Queensland, so Kurt's on the Firebirds' side, that's for sure," Tippett said with an assured laugh.

The 23-year-old has continued to excel at the Birds this year, despite making a transition from the WNBL to netball only four years ago.

"I feel a bit more at ease out there this season. It's my second season playing full games and I love every second out there on the court," she said. "I want to keep improving and pushing myself."

And the best way to do that has been by lining up alongside superstar goal-shooter Romelda Aiken, who is a colossus at 196cm.

It's a pretty intimidating attacking combination, but so is ultra-competitive Swifts defender Sharni Layton

"I love Sharni. She's a great friend off the court and she definitely has that intimidation factor," Tippett said. "She tries to get in the goal shooters' heads.

"She's very athletic and she can get up for those high balls even though she's not as tall as Romelda.

"I love working with Romelda. She's a dream to play with and so athletic. I can put the ball anywhere and she'll grab it. She inspires me."

There's also plenty of love and respect among the Firebirds squad, with Tippett saying they'll all have breakfast together before tonight's blockbuster.

But after both teams step on the court you can expect all the warm and fuzzy feelings to disappear for an hour.

Tippett scored the decisive goal in last year's extraordinary grand final between the Firebirds and Swifts in the dying seconds.

But the Swifts won the last clash 58-54 in May, before the Firebirds ended their season with big wins in their last two games against the Magic and Fever.

"We played our last game against the Swifts at their home and it felt like we had 20 supporters out there and they had 20,000," Tippett said.

"It was so loud. But in the grand final (in Brisbane last year) it felt like we had an eighth player out there in those last few minutes.

"I can't wait to step out there in front of a big home crowd again."

Tippett said the Swifts can expect a much more competitive Firebirds outfit than the one that lost to their southern rivals in May.

"We took a step back and made a few changes to our game plan before the pointy end of the season two weeks ago," she said.

"Hopefully it all comes together."


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