15/04/2024

Initially, it was a rollercoaster to start the season for the Firebirds, alternating between wins and losses in their first seven games, this pattern was disrupted when they hit a rough patch in the middle of the season.

Although the Firebirds found some form later on in the season, they stumbled at the final two hurdles to finish only a game outside the top four.

The Inner Sanctum reviews the Firebords 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season.

What Worked?

There were plenty of things that worked for the Firebirds, one of these aspects was the potent shooting circle they possessed.

Coming in as a relatively unknown prospect, Noongar woman Donnell Wallam slotted right in alongside Diamonds superstar Gretel Bueta for a great pairing that could play a moving circle or a traditional holding but mobile circle.

By season’s end, Wallam shot 519 goals, which was the fourth most in the competition at 86 per cent accuracy. This combined with the third most offensive rebounds (35) as well as 26 super shots at 44 per cent accuracy made her a great target to learn alongside Bueta.

At their best, the Firebirds had enough firepower to take it up to the top sides shown in their wins against the Fever and GIANTS Netball, as well as their close losses against the Melbourne Vixens on both occasions.

Donnell Wallam had a fantastic first SSN season underscored by her Diamonds selection (Picture: Netball Australia – Twitter)

What Didn’t?

The Firebirds had a particular portion within the middle of their season where they had a poor run of games. In the end, it cost them a finals appearance, which was bemusing considering their form at their peak and their talent.

Losing all four games between rounds eight and 11, the first two against the Vixens and Magpies were single-digit margins, before losing their next two against the Thunderbirds and Lightning by a combined 34 points

Despite boasting plenty of talent in the defensive end, it caused plenty of headaches for coach Megan Anderson as goals were being scored easily by opposition teams.

By season’s end, they had conceded the second most goals (928) behind their rivals, the Lightning at an average of 66 goals per game.

More Netball News

SSN 2022 Season Review: Adelaide Thunderbirds – A sense of deja vu

SSN 2022 Season Review: Sunshine Coast Lightning – An underwhelming season

Birmingham 2022: Diamonds weather the Sunshine to gleam gold again

Season Highlight

The Firebirds shook the entire SSN fanbase when they travelled to RAC Arena and picked up one of their most impressive wins to date against eventual premiers West Coast Fever.

Coming into the game off a rough loss the previous weekend, it was a tussle between the two sides before the Queensland-based side finished off the stronger to win 72-68.

They were led by Bueta who shot 40/41 goals and had 135.5 Nissan Net Points. It also gave them hope that they could finish in fourth spot and make the finals.

Season Lowlight

The weekend before their biggest victory in recent history saw one of the Firebirds’ lowest points in recent history, getting thumped at the hands of their state rivals Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Having won the first meeting between the two by 28 goals at USC Stadium, the Lightning returned the favour and cruised to a 21-goal victory, this time at Nissan Arena.

It consigned them to their fourth consecutive defeat and left them reeling heading into the final few rounds.

Team MVP

Whilst there were plenty of stars for the Firebirds, Bueta continued to build on a stunning Quad Series with a superb 2022 season.

Playing predominantly in goal attack, the Diamonds superstar shot 90 per cent of her goals, 40 per cent of her super shots and had the most centre pass receives of the year (365). She also had 1046 Nissan Net Points.

Lara Dunkley and Gretel Bueta after the match against the Lightning. (Photo: Super Netball)

Having a stellar outing in Diamonds colours once more, this time at the Commonwealth Games, she’ll play a key role going forward if the Firebirds are to make waves next season.

Rising Star

A rising star not just for the Firebirds but in Australian netball, Ruby Bakewell-Doran had a meteoric rise this past season.

Starting over Kim Jenner in goal defence, she finished the season with 513 Nissan Net Points, the fifth most deflections in the competition (56), 19 intercepts & 17 rebounds.

Capping off her remarkable season with a place as a reserve player in the Diamonds Commonwealth Games squad, she will be a player to watch for many years to come.

Embed from Getty Images

Moving Forward

The Firebirds have had the most changes amongst the squad, bringing in new talent as well as a brand new coach.

Amongst the outs includes goalkeeper Eboni Usoro-Brown, talented wing attack Jemma Mi Mi plus their third reliable defender, Jenner to the West Coast Fever.

Their new coach is ex-Diamond and Firebirds defender Rebecca Bulley having previously coached the Giants Netball Academy as well as being an assistant at the NSW Swifts in their premiership year.

Rebecca Bulley (centre) is the new head coach for the Queensland Firebirds. (Picture: Queensland Firebirds)

Amongst the signings into the contracted 10 include Macy Gardner returning plus ex-ACU Brisbane North defender Remi Kamo and ex-Sunshine Coast Lightning training partner Ash Unie.

Whilst there will be some slight tweaks to the lineup this season, the only way is up for the Firebirds as they’ll look to make it to the top four once more.

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