Gretel Bueta has inspired the Queensland Firebirds to one of their greatest wins in a 72-68 Super Netball upset of West Coast Fever at Perth’s RAC Arena.
Needing a victory to restore confidence after a four-game losing streak, the three-time champions did it in style by taking down the second-ranked Fever in a shock result that launched the Queenslanders from seventh to third.
Indigenous players Donnell Wallam and Jemma Mi Mi cried tears of joy after the First Nations Round nailbiter and their Firebirds teammates celebrated like it was a grand final.
It might as well have been for an outfit at risk of plummeting out of finals reckoning after looking strong for much of the season.
Bueta took advantage of the absence of Fever midcourters Verity Simmons and Jess Anstiss to score a season-high 40 goals just one week after a below-par performance against the Sunshine Coast.
“That win meant everything to us after coming off four losses,” Bueta said.
“To come together during the week, knuckle down and grow that confidence again makes me proud of the girls.”
A boilover was on the cards when Firebirds coach Megan Anderson’s bold punt on Mia Stower paid off, with the substitute goaler sinking two super shots to level the scores at 53-53 at three-quarter time.
There were some anxious moments in the final term as the Fever clawed back from a four-goal deficit to trail by one.
But a Gabi Simpson intercept with three minutes left steadied the Firebirds’ ship.
While Anderson made just one change in 60 minutes, Fever coach Dan Ryan made more than a dozen but none had the effect she sought.
Jhaniele Fowler shot a perfect 60-from-60 but it was not enough to save the home team from an ambush.
Mi Mi pocketed an intercept with one of her first involvements as the Firebirds kept pace with their hosts throughout the first half.
Alice Teague-Neeld’s 21 first-half feeds stood out for the Fever while the Firebirds had a more even spread of contributions.
Wallam and defender Ruby Bakewell-Doran were key members of the Firebirds’ resistance and Bueta was something else.
With 16 first-half goals, she was on track for a big haul and her one-handed, fadeaway shot while tipping out of court in the second-quarter was one for the highlight reel.
Many of Bueta’s tricks were performed while Fever defender Sunday Aryang was surprisingly sent to the bench after a promising start.