Commonwealth Games on radar as Firebirds' Gretel Bueta plots shooting switch

Gretel Bueta of the Firebirds looks to pass Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images

Expect to see more of Queensland Firebirds goal-attack Gretel Bueta under the post this season, as she looks to develop herself as one of Australia's best goal-shooters following her headline grabbing performances for the Australia Diamonds during the Quad Series earlier this year.

Bueta stole the show in London with her dominance in the shooter position, missing just eight shots all tournament, taking out both the Quad Series final player of the match and the player of the series following the Diamonds' emphatic 58-46 victory over England.

Preparing for her seventh season at the Firebirds, the 28-year-old says she's excited to develop her game further as she works alongside young attacker Mia Stowers, while shooter Romelda Aiken George is expected to miss the season after she announced she was pregnant on Thursday morning.

"Yeah, possibly," Bueta told ESPN when asked about the shooting role. "We've got Mia Stowers, a young up-and-coming goaler, so we've been training together in one way and the other, so that's really exciting.

"I just love being out there on court, and goal shooter's a completely different position to goal attack, which is exciting, you get to mix it up a little bit and try new things."

Making a statement to the netball world when she first put the shooter patch on in London, Bueta seemed almost unstoppable, moving freely under the post with her athleticism making her an easy target for feeders.

It's a position she's rarely played in Super Netball having spent most of her years supporting the Jamaican giant Aiken in the circle. But with the Commonwealth Games bearing down and little time for new Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich to prepare her squad, the coach has told Bueta to stay flexible in her preparations.

"Well, she [Marinkovich] said leading up to game one, in the last training session, she said she still didn't know what way she was going to run me and Steph [Wood], so she's just said to stay open, stay flexible, stay adaptable, and that's what I've had to do," Bueta said.

"Goal-shooter, goal-attack, wing-attack - I debuted in wing attack for the Diamonds - I do not mind, I just love being out there for the Diamonds.

"Stacy made a good point before the series, 'you're not here to prove anything, you're just looking to improve every game', and I love thinking of it that way. You just want to improve, every time you step out on the court.

"I know I've still got some room to definitely grow and evolve my game and things to keep working on so, that's what's exciting to me. I love being challenged and I just want to keep improving because the other countries they're improving every day, every week, every month.

"If you want that gold medal at the end of the day for the Diamonds, you've got to do whatever it takes as a squad member to help our team wins, so that's what I'm focused on right now."

For now, Bueta's attention is on the Firebirds and returning the franchise to the success they saw in 2016.

"Yeah, I think I would just love for us to play to our potential, I know we've got it in us. We've got incredible players in the group and under Kim [Ravalion] and Lara [Dunkley] this season which is really exciting.

"I'm just really looking forward to be working really hard, so to see us be rewarded by playing top netball would be unreal."

Meanwhile, Vixens captain Liz Watson makes her long-awaited return for the club this weekend at the preseason Team Girls Cup tournament in Melbourne.

Sidelined throughout 2021 through a foot injury, Watson made an impressive return to the international stage in London where she led the Diamonds to a Quad Series triumph, and is now expected to lead her Vixens side from 2021 cellar dwellars to 2022 champions.

An updated side, with the inclusion of gun shooter Kiera Austin, and the return to their home venue, the Vixens are expected to cast aside the troubles they had through 2021 and pressure reigning premiers, NSW Swifts, for the 2022 title.

"Yeah, we are going really well at the moment," Watson told ESPN. "We've got Kiera [Austin] over from Giants who's just still coming back from a knee injury but ticking along very nicely.

"Everyone was really disappointed with last year's season of course. In Victoria we always pride ourselves on being successful and winning and being up there to be really strong competitors, so that's what we're going to aim for and obviously the premiership is our goal.

"It's a new year, new players, we're at our new netball centre as well, so we've got our own home which has been awesome a few new staff who are now full time, which has been awesome for our program and development. So we want a really successful year."

According to both Bueta and Watson, the Swifts remain the team to beat with the defending premiers retaining many of their core group through last year's signing period.

"I think the Swifts, of course will be the team to beat," Watson said. "They didn't have many changes in their team, they're the reigning premiers and they have such a strong group, a very core group that have been together for a while now, so they're always strong. They're very passionate, they have a passionate team and I think they're going to be right up there."