Alexander backing Queensland teams
AUSTRALIAN Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander says the winner of Sunday's sudden-death semi-final between the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning can go all the way and win the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball title.
Alexander has coached, or coached against, a majority of the players in the star-studded starting line-ups which will go toe-to-toe in the "Sunshine Shootout" at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Alexander believes home court advantage gives the Firebirds an edge in what should be a thriller between the teams that have collectively won the past three national league Grand Finals.
Regardless of who claims victory, she says the winner can do more damage in the finals series and would not fear a match-up with the GWS Giants or West Coast Fever the following week.
The Firebirds and Lightning both had their fair share of close losses during the regular season to finish in the bottom half of the top four behind the minor premier Giants and Fever.
But Alexander says ladder positions are now irrelevant.
She believes big-game experience along with top-end talent counts for everything - something both the Firebirds and Lightning have in spades.
"Whoever wins has a genuine chance to win it all, particularly the Firebirds who have played well against both the Giants and Fever in recent times,'' Alexander said.
"Lightning have got their act together too in the last half of the season … Noeline (Taurua, Lightning coach) showed us last year that she gets her team to play well when it counts.
"Both teams had their issues at the start of the season but have come good.
"The Firebirds have settled down quite nicely and have got some really good connections happening. They are a real chance should they get through.''
Alexander has form with her pre-match predictions.
Ahead of the 2016 ANZ Championship Grand Final, she correctly tipped the Firebirds to beat the NSW Swifts in double overtime.
Before the Firebirds and Lightning played in round nine this year, she tipped a draw with the Sunshine Coast eventually winning by a goal thanks to a last-second Caitlin Bassett buzzer beater.
Alexander says there will be nothing in it again.
"It will come down to the battle of the mid-court. It comes down to who can get the ascendancy there and keep it going for the entire 60 minutes,'' she said.
"It will be about not making errors and getting the ball back. That's going to be critically important.
"Firebirds would have to have just a slight ascendancy given they are at home. They have played better there. They seem to enjoy that court and playing in front of their fans.
"I watched them both train that week (before round nine this season) and their preparation was spot on. It's going to be close again, no matter what.''