Controversy-hit Firebirds stun Fever in Super Netball

Steve Barrett |

The Queensland Firebirds have pulled off the biggest upset of the Super Netball season, putting their off-court turbulence aside and climbing off the bottom of the ladder with a stunning 78-70 win over West Coast Fever.

The second-ranked Fever were expected to make light work of the last-placed, embattled Firebirds at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Saturday but the hosts, desperate to avoid a third successive defeat, were up for the fight.

Injured captain Kim Ravaillion sprinted onto the court in tears seconds after the fulltime siren, while new coach Katie Walker was overcome with emotion after the most tumultuous period in the club’s history.

“I’m really emotional,” star goal shooter Donnell Wallam said.

“We’ve had a couple of tough weeks.

“We just wanted to enjoy our netball and that’s what we came out here to do.”

Donnell Wallam.
Donnell Wallam (GS) was instrumental in the Firebirds’ surprise win. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Ten days ago senior coach Bec Bulley and the club dramatically parted company following reports of a player revolt, less than two seasons into her four-year deal.

Lauren Brown took over in a caretaker capacity to coach Queensland last weekend against Melbourne Mavericks before following Bulley out the door on Monday.

Former assistant Walker and experienced three-time premiership-winning mentor Roselee Jencke were announced as co-coaches late in the week and, at short notice, prised the best out of the beleaguered Firebirds.

A blowout beckoned when the Fever steamed ahead 20-12 before the Firebirds hit back, levelling the scores and having the parochial crowd on their feet after finishing the quarter with a rousing 8-0 burst, capped by back-to-back Wallam super shots in the last 12 seconds.

With acting captain Lara Dunkley and centre Macy Gardner firing, Queensland took a shock 41-39 lead into the long break when Wallam drilled a two-pointer on the halftime siren.

Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard, fresh off her competition record-breaking goal-scoring haul last week, started the second half with a pair of turnovers as the Firebirds tightened their surprise grip on the contest.

The Fever couldn’t puncture Queensland’s defence in the third term, which finished with the home side up 57-51.

West Coast were up against it, left one short for two minutes when defender Kadie Ann-Dehaney was sat down for dangerous contact when she collected Gardner high.

The Fever regrouped and closed the gap to one through Fowler-Nembhard before Queensland finished the match with a stirring 7-0 burst.