The Collingwood Magpies have dealt a double blow to the Queensland Firebirds by spoiling Gretel Bueta’s historic game as they staged a 71-67 Super Netball ambush at Hobart’s Mystate Bank Arena.
Firebirds star Bueta fought back in the second half of his 100th game in the domestic league, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Magpies from grabbing a big scalp and joining the Queenslanders in final contention. with four wins in 10 games.
The sixth-placed Magpies almost blew a 14-goal lead in the second half when the Firebirds chased hard in the final minutes.
After being overpowered early by Jodi-Ann Ward, Bueta found her range and benefited from some gutsy, accurate shooting from the middle of the court.
The big escape was spot on when trailing by just two, but a desperate possession gain by Magpies center Molly Jovic helped her team stabilize.
Ward set the stage with his pressure on Bueta, Shimona Nelson shot 65 goals in 66 attempts and Kelsey Browne (34 shots) was too quick and decisive for the Firebirds.
“This has been a long time coming,” Browne said.
“It’s been a big turning point in the last three weeks.
There have been a lot of difficult conversations and everyone is starting to take responsibility for their own performance.”
Bueta eventually broke free from Ward’s clutches to score 23 goals, including three from two-point super shot range.
The Firebirds would also have benefited from the tenacity displayed by defender Ruby Bakewell-Doran, who kept her side on the hunt when they struggled in the opening minutes.
The Magpies clearly had the best of the first half.
Bueta and Lara Dunkley skilfully directed Queensland’s attack this season, but struggled to break through Collingwood’s circular defence.
With Ash Brazill and Ward at the helm, the Firebirds feeders were forced into low-percentage passing.
Jemma Mi Mi replaced Dunkley on the wing before halftime as Firebirds coach Megan Anderson sought more dynamic and confident movement from her spikers.
The Firebirds’ top-four position appeared to be in serious jeopardy from the opening minutes of the third period when Nelson scored his 41st goal to lead the Magpies to a 44-32 lead.
Collingwood led by as many as 14 points before the Firebirds fell back by six points and set the stage for a tense fourth quarter.