The Queensland Firebirds will look to put an eventful offseason behind them as they look to push for finals after missing out again in 2021.
The Queensland Firebirds failed to make the most of last season, where they played the majority of their games in Brisbane after COVID forced the league into a Queensland hub to end the year. The Firebirds had a sluggish start to their season, but eventually showed some promising signs.
Their squad depth was regularly tested as injuries were not uncommon for the Brisbane-based side. Tara Hinchliffe missed half of the Super Netball season after picking up an ACL injury midway through the campaign.
Consistency ultimately killed any chances Queensland had of making finals, as it struggled to string good performances together. However, after an eventful offseason, coach Megan Anderson will be hoping she can lift the once legendary netball side to its former heights.
What’s made waves in the pre-season?
After Queensland made some big-name signings in the offseason, the Firebirds will be hoping to soar towards finals. However, they will have to do so without their star shooter, Romelda Aiken, who has confirmed she will be out for this season due to pregnancy.
One of their biggest signings during the offseason was the acquisition of England Roses defender, Eboni Usoro-Brown. After losing Hinchliffe, the Firebirds were in need of someone to lead from defence.
Usoro-Brown is one of the most experienced and talented goalkeepers in international netball, so the Firebirds can sleep easy knowing they will be solid at the back. Her brilliant eye for the ball and ability to pull off interceptions will be massive for Queensland going forward.
Meanwhile, the purple dresses have had a change in leadership, with stalwart Gabi Simpson stepping down from captaincy, after taking the throne in 2017 from netball legend, Laura Geitz. Kim Ravaillion will be taking over as captain in what will be her fifth season as a Firebird.
To cap off an eventful offseason in the Sunshine State, Queensland was also handed a $10,000 fine from Super Netball due to breaching rules during the player-signing period.
What needs to change?
The Firebirds need to find a way to perform week-in, week-out, after a lack of consistency cost them a chance of a finals appearance. The experience and influence of Usoro-Brown will be a massive asset to Queensland as it tries to replicate its form from the ANZ Premiership days where the club was a feared opposition in every match.
There is no doubt that the Firebirds have the talent within their ranks to be able to challenge any side they come up against, however, they cannot expect a finals berth if their unpredictable form continues.
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Who’s in for a big season?
Superstar goal-attack, Gretel Bueta looks set to be in for a big season after dominating in the Quad Series. The 28-year-old was named player of the series after she guided the Australian Diamonds to the victory over England in January.
Bueta had a slow start to last season as she returned from pregnancy, after missing the 2020 campaign through pregnancy. However, once she found her rhythm, she was back to her former-self with her infectious enthusiasm felt across Nissan Arena when she was at her best.
Even after spending years playing Super Netball, defenders still struggle to find an answer for her. Bueta’s incredible athleticism and unorthodox technique means that she is always a menace in attack.
The games that matter:
The Firebirds will make the trip up the Bruce highway as they face their local rivals, the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Round 2 at USC Stadium. The purple dresses were once one of the most dominant sides in Australian netball, however, they are no longer the force they once were, and have since been usurped by their noisy neighbours on the Sunshine Coast.
This game could also potentially see former Firebird, Tara Hinchliffe face off against her old side for the first time after spending four seasons with Queensland.
Round 7 sees the Firebirds host 2021 Super Netball champions, the New South Wales Swifts. The Swifts were victorious in both of their encounters against Queensland last year, and the Firebirds will look to set that record straight when they first meet at Nissan Arena.
The Queensland Firebirds have a wealth of talent across the court and will consistently ask the opposition questions in attack. While they will be without Aiken, the Firebirds will still be a threat if Bueta continues her sublime form from the Quad Series.
After making five grand finals between 2011 and 2016, with three of those appearances resulting in championships, the Firebirds have since made just the one semi-final appearance and will be looking to return to their former glory in 2022.
If Anderson can find consistency in her side, then Queensland will be looking to fly up the ladder after years of mediocrity.
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