NETBALL: Erin Burger has developed a strong bond with her Queensland Firebirds teammates in a short space of time.
But the South African international cheekily admits she may have to use her inside knowledge when she comes face to face with the likes of Gabi Simpson, Caitlyn Nevins and Gretel Tippett again on the international stage.
"I think it will be tough playing against them in the future," the 94-Test veteran says of the Firebirds' Australian Diamonds contingent.
"But it may be a good thing because I know their strengths and their weaknesses, and maybe that can help us (the Proteas) a little."
Until the next time they cross paths playing for their respective countries - such as at next year's Commonwealth Games - the star "import" is focussed on helping the Firebirds in their quest to win a third straight domestic championship and first Super Netball title.
Though "thrown in the deep end" in round three, being a late call-up after a season-ending knee injury to Mahalia Cassidy, Burger said: "I have to say the team has been great in supporting me and making me feel welcome from the start.
"I want to be a positive influence on the team. I want bring everything I can as a player."
On a personal note, the 30-year-old centre is determined to make the most of the chance that was completely "unexpected".
Hailing from Pretoria, Burger admits to once dreaming about playing in the old ANZ Championship, but despite being crowned the MVP of the 2011 world championships was overlooked by the teams in the trans-Tasman tournament.
"It didn't happen for so long, I thought maybe it was just a stupid idea," she explained.
"With the ANZ (Championship), teams were only allowed one import, and usually they'd take a 1.98cm shooter.
"It wasn't meant to be.
"I was disappointed but I still had good things going for me."
Burger now runs a successful netball clinic in South Africa, Extreme Netball, with Anso Kemp.
Although booked out until May, she said she had no choice but take up the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to join the Firebirds when Netball Queensland high-performance general manager Richard McInnes called her.
"It is pretty awesome playing in this league," she said. "Being the strongest (domestic) netball competition in the world, it's a big privilege to be a part of it."
Burger said she would only grow as both a player and a coach, further developing under Firebirds mentor Rose Jencke.
"There's a lot of people (back in South Africa) who think it is one of the coolest things ever. There's a lot of people very excited, supporting me, telling me to learn as much as possible," she said.
Burger will be a key to the Firebirds' chances when they take on the fourth-placed Magpies (5-4) on Sunday at the Launceston Silverdome. The Firebirds are fifth, half a game in arrears.
She will renew "hostilities" with another international rival in former Firebird and fellow centre Kim Ravaillion. She embraces the challenges such a competition is serving up.
"There's no easy matches. All the players are good, so it is quite intense," she said.
"It's not going to get any easier. Everyone wants to be in the top four."
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