Gretel Bueta inspired the Queensland Firebirds to one of their biggest wins in a 72-68 Super Netball thwarted by West Coast Fever at the RAC Arena in Perth.
Needing a win to restore confidence after a four-game losing streak, the three-time champions did it in style by knocking out second-placed Fever in a shock result that lifted the Queenslanders from seventh to third.
Indigenous players Donnell Wallam and Jemma Mi Mi cried with joy after the First Nations round and their Firebirds teammates celebrated like it was a grand finale.
It might as well have been for a team that was in danger of going downhill after looking strong for much of the season.
Bueta capitalized on the absence of Fever midfielders Verity Simmons and Jess Anstiss to score a season-high 40 goals just a week after a subpar performance against the Sunshine Coast.
“This win meant everything to us after four defeats,” Bueta said.
“Coming together during the week, getting down to business and getting that confidence back makes me proud of the girls.”
An outflanking was on the cards when Firebirds coach Megan Anderson’s audacious punt on Mia Stower paid off, with the substitute keeper hitting two super shots to tie the scores at 53-53 three quarters from time.
There were some anxious moments last season as the fever recovered from a four-goal deficit to trail by one.
But a Gabi Simpson interception three minutes from time stabilized the Firebirds’ ship.
While Anderson only made one change in 60 minutes, Fever coach Dan Ryan made more than a dozen, but none had the effect she was looking for.
Jhaniele Fowler shot a perfect 60 from 60, but that wasn’t enough to save the home side from an ambush.
Mi Mi bagged an interception with one of his first engagements as the Firebirds kept pace with their hosts throughout the first half.
Alice Teague-Neeld’s 21 streams in the first half stood out for the fever while the Firebirds had a more even distribution of contributions.
Wallam and defenseman Ruby Bakewell-Doran were key members of the Firebirds resistance and Bueta was something else.
With 16 goals in the first half, she was on course for a big hit and her one-handed crossfade shot while swinging off the pitch in the second quarter was one of the highlights.
Many of Bueta’s tricks were performed while Fever Sunday defender Aryang was surprisingly sent to the bench after a promising start.