We’d say you couldn’t script it, but it’s the fairytale you would write.
After a swift change of plans mid-week as Melbourne went into lockdown, and an injury ruling out Emily Mannix the night before the game, an incredible debut - including the winning goal after the siren - from goaler Rahni Samason has helped the Melbourne Vixens take out their first win of the season in a thrilling finish, in the same arena they won their last match, the 2020 grand final.
If you’d picked this starting seven five weeks ago, you would not have been believed - a fresh debutant, a recent debutant, no sign of Liz Watson or Emily Mannix and Kumwenda in GA. It was a test for the Vixens, and a win needed to lift the spirit of the team and fans at home.
The game started off tight and goal-for-goal early, however the pressure of the Firebirds forced the Vixens backwards and to trail by eight at the first break. Something clicked for the travelling team who used the Super Shot to their advantage, and clawed back to a 2-goal difference at half time.
The Super Shot again helped the Vixens surge in the third quarter, taking the lead late. A thrilling final quarter had the crowd on their feet, but a goal after the siren silenced them as Samason shot her eighth and final Super Shot.
You could see the relief head coach Simone McKinnis as the camera shot straight to her after the match-winning goal.
“It feels fantastic, it was a hard-fought win,” said McKinnis.
“It’s been a pretty hectic, full-on week so to be able to perform, I’m just really proud of them.”
McKinnis praised both Rahni and Kadie-Ann Dehaney for their performances at each end of the court, that helped lift the team to the win.
“That was a super performance from Rahni. All credit to her to get out there and shoot the winning shot - really, that’s a dream debut for any player. I thought she was sensational, and with MJ working her into the game, it was super important to us.
“KD was competing hard and showed the aggression and the competitiveness right from the word ‘go’ and she just didn’t stop.”
Sealing the winning goal, Rahni Samason remained cool under the pressure.
“I tried to think as little as possible, to be honest. If I think about it too much I get a bit nervous so I just blanked my mind and went through my normal rhythm. You look at Sharelle’s winning goal against New Zealand - it’s things that kids dream about,” said Samason.
“I don’t mind pressure - Diamonds are made under pressure so I love it.”
Samason credited her coaches and teammates for the comfort she felt out on court.
“I think the confidence given from Simone, Sharelle and all these girls, especially MJ in the circle with me, and Kate Moloney with her great leadership, I know that helped lift me up as well because I just knew they had my back."
Mwai Kumwenda spoke highly of Rahni who has been a part of the Vixens environment for a few years, including when they both went through rehab after ACL injuries.
“I’m just so proud of her coming up and taking the opportunity, and in the game today, she was just amazing. She has been in the Vixens squad for a long time, and in 2018 we did rehab together where we would dance together every morning,” said Kumwenda.
“I’m just so proud of her bringing that energy to the team and the Vixen family.”
With her well-known competitive streak, Kumwenda was thrilled to come out with the win.
“I told Simone ‘I haven’t slept for four weeks’ because I love winning (laughs).
“This win for the Vixens family means a lot to us because having lost four games, we haven’t experienced this before - only a long time ago. Winning today is just amazing and I’m so proud of the girls and very proud of Rahni for showing up because sometimes it’s hard, when you’re playing in the best competition in the world.”
The Vixens’ focus will turn to next week, however a decision is yet to be made on when and where their round 6 game will take place.
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