ALL SMILES: Queensland Firebirds players Jemma Mi Mi, Tippah Dwan and Tara Hinchliffe meet two of their biggest fans, Caitlyn Weston and Elisabeth Pitt.
ALL SMILES: Queensland Firebirds players Jemma Mi Mi, Tippah Dwan and Tara Hinchliffe meet two of their biggest fans, Caitlyn Weston and Elisabeth Pitt. Brian Cassidy

BIRDS COME OUT TO PLAY: Firebirds visit Bundy

NETBALL: Queensland Firebird Tara Hinchliffe grew up idolising her former teammate Laura Geitz.

Now the 20-year-old is hoping her performances in this year's Suncorp Super Netball competition can help the team cover her loss.

The goal defender visited the region yesterday with fellow players Jemma Mi Mi and Tippah Dwan to run clinics for young Bundaberg juniors between the age of 10 and 14.

The clinics were part of the Suncorp Team Girls Regional Tour that also visited Rockhampton and Gladstone.

"The clinics were really good, we really loved having the girls here,” Hinchliffe said.

"They were so enthusiastic and so excited for us to be here, which we love to hear.

"We took them through three stations, we had core cardio, fitness and then put them through Fast 5 games.”

Hinchliffe said these visits are vital as netball faces increased competition from other sports for female participation.

"Still at the moment, netball is the number one in Australia,” she said.

"We love to see and see how much fun the girls have with it.

"We don't need them to stick with netball the whole time, but just to participate, have a go, and see what they can love.”

She also rated the players on show from Bundaberg.

"They are amazing, there are some very fast mid courters going on,” she said.

"There's also some talented shooters and defenders too.”

Now Hinchliffe has taught a lesson to the best girls in the region, she is hoping to do the same on court with her Firebirds teammates.

For the past two years the team has been outshined by their state counterparts the Sunshine Coast Lightning, who have claimed the opening two Suncorp Super Netball competition.

Hinchliffe said it was time to change that.

"It's a big challenge and we really love playing the Lightning,” she said.

"The thing is their team has changed a lot this year and our team hasn't.

"We're really excited to consolidate what we have got so far.”

Hinchliffe said the expectations are high.

"Last weekend we had two really great games against the Giants and we're confident heading into round one,” she said.

"I don't think we just want to aim for the top four, we want to aim to win.”

But the side will have to do it without club stalwart Laura Geitz who retired with Hinchliffe confident the team can step up in her absence.

"We were lucky we learnt so much from her,” she said.

"As three young pretty inexperienced defenders we've got the chance to prove ourselves.

"I just want to develop both goal keeper and goal defence and just see who I work better with and what we can do as a defence unit.”

The Firebirds start against Melbourne Vixens on April 27.



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