Queensland Firebirds goal shooter Donnell Wallam has created history as she became just the second First Nations player in the Suncorp Super Netball competition after being named as a replacement player for Romelda Aiken-George.
A proud Noongar woman from Western Australia, Donnell Wallam spent last year playing for the Leeds Rhinos in England before linking up with the Firebirds on a temporary contract. Things really lifted in the pre-season, playing a starring role in the Team Girls Cup.
Firebirds head coach Megan Anderson described Wallam’s performance as ‘phenomenal’ and admitted it had exceed her expectations.
“I knew she had special talents and I knew what she’d sacrificed to come over and she’d been so keen to get out on court, it was just so heart-warming to see her play so well,” Anderson said.
Wallam will replace three-time championship winner Romelda Aiken-George in the Queensland Firebirds squad after the star goal shooter made the decision to sit out the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season after becoming pregnant.
Aiken-George was determined to start the season with the Firebirds and play her 200th game, however she made the decision to miss the entire season with Firebirds head coach Megan Anderson wanting to keep her around the squad.
“I wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision and at least try to see if my body was able to start back training and at least give it one last go,” Aiken-George explained.
“Didds (Romelda) will definitely be around, she has an amazing netball brain and the ability to read how people are feeling. She’ll be helping in the coaching department keeping an eye on the shooters for me,” Anderson said.
Wallam will join fellow Indigenous woman Jemma Mi Mi at the Firebirds and said she understood the significance of her signing and what it meant to be the second First Nations player in the Suncorp Super Netball competition.
“Firstly, what an amazing job she (Mi Mi) has done and continues to do. I’m happy I can be there and help her take on that role and inspire more First Nations athletes to follow their dreams,” Wallam acknowledged.
“We had a few chats about it, and she’s given me some great advice and insight of what it’s like and I’m just glad we can both lean on each other for support now.”
Wallam wants to see more Aboriginal players in the Suncorp Super Netball competition and hopes to inspire others with her journey.
“Obviously, we’d love for more Aboriginal athletes to be coming through the pathways, but I’m happy I can hopefully inspire them and to be doing it alongside Jemma (Mi Mi) who I’ve looked up to is just amazing,” Wallam said.
Firebirds head coach Megan Anderson describe Wallam’s start to her Suncorp Super Netball career as a ‘baptism of fire’ and said she was proud of the way the 28-year-old has fitted into the club.
“She is very level-headed and knows exactly what she wants. She’s so keen to learn and become better and has this quiet determination and confidence that’s just beautiful,” the Firebirds coach said.
“I expect her to continue to build across the season, she’s a naturally gifted player with a great netball brain, so her physical presence and match fitness will just keep getting better and better. It’s exciting to think about how far she could go.”
The Queensland Firebirds begin their Suncorp Super Netball campaign with a home game against the Melbourne Vixens.