Australia

Rookie Firebird standing tall

Diamonds ace Gretel Bueta is backing rising star Tippah Dwan to have a breakout season after the debutant’s stellar showing for the Firebirds in the Super Netball opener.

Bueta is pregnant with her first child and will sit out this Super Netball season but remains a key part of the Firebirds side, mentoring young shooters Dwan and Mia Stower.

Dwan has big shoes to fill given Bueta’s standing as the Liz Ellis Diamond winner last year after outstanding performances for both club and country.

And while she knows she won’t be able to fly under the radar again, the 20-year-old is determined to remain a thorn in the side of the competition’s defenders as she continues to hone her game under Bueta’s tutelage.

Dwan gives away 14cm to her mentor but her composed performance on debut - adding 11 goals, including three-of-four from super shot range - helped form a potent combination in the circle with Romelda Aiken.

“It felt pretty normal really because I’ve been working with Romelda for a few years as well but just having (Bueta) on the sideline gave me a bit of a boost trying to be the lead goal attack,” Dwan said of her debut match.

Bueta felt like a “proud mother duck” watching Dwan go to work against the Lightning despite the Firebirds’ eventual loss in the derby.

“She’s been training exactly the way she played and I wasn’t surprised, I was just very excited she just went out there (and performed),” the Aussie Diamonds star said.

“She’s such a cool, calm, collected person under pressure, so it was amazing just to see her out there showcasing her talent.

“She’s so talented and she adds something completely different to our shooting circle, which I like.”

Dwan has always walked a different path.

She started her netball career in China as an eight-year-old while her father was posted in Shanghai.

It led to a lifelong love for the sport and she was added to the extended Firebirds squad while in year 12 boarding at Brisbane’s Somerville House.

A foot injury and subsequent operation dashed her hopes of making her Super Netball debut last year, and when COVID-19 threatened the 2020 season, her playing drought extended.

“I just really wanted to actually play a game. I hadn’t played a game in over a year, so it was a big bummer,” she said.

Dwan was thrilled for Bueta when she found out about her pregnancy and, while she knew it could open a door for her, thought the Firebirds may opt to recruit a high-profile international player to replace her.

“Obviously she was the best goal attack in the world at the time, so I thought they might do, but with the pandemic going on I thought I might have a bit of a chance because it might be a bit tricky to get someone from overseas,” Dwan said.

But Bueta said one of the great strengths of Dwan’s game was the difference she brought to the team

“Put Tippah in there and ruffle a few feathers and I can just imagine the other teams trying to analyse us this year and not knowing what to expect now which is really exciting,” she said.

“Tippah just has to go out there and be her and it’s just the beginning for her, she’s going to go a long way.”

The Firebirds take on the Melbourne Vixens in Round 2 on at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Saturday.

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