Just over a year ago, Joshi Philip secretly raided his wife Tegan’s wardrobe, collected an armful of Vixens dresses and drove to Adelaide with a carload of his mates.
As the Vixens thrashed the Thunderbirds, the VixMen were (unofficially) born.
“Instead of just flying over and watching the game we thought it would be cool to surprise the girls, and it went from there,’’ says Philip, a school teacher, sports nut and keen netball fan.
“One of the lads said ‘why don’t we get dressed up’, and someone else said ‘why don’t we get dressed up in netball dresses?’ So that’s how it all started. It’s kind of grown since.’’
So were Tegan and the Vixens surprised? You could say that.
“Definitely! We thought we’d better get to the game nice and early - we didn’t want to throw them off right before the opening pass! But they enjoyed having us there last year, so we thought ‘oh well, let’s make it an official thing’.’’
For the 2018 encore, the numbers had doubled to 10, so a mini-bus was recruited, too. There is now a moustache on the Vixens logo, t-shirts, socks, hats, chants and signs.
Yet although the frocking-up is mostly reserved for the annual road trip (and the odd Diamonds' outing), Joshi warns: “If the girls are lucky enough to make a grand final, there could be a showing.’’
Well, there’s something to look forward to. Or, possibly, not! For those thinking of joining, the membership criteria is rather relaxed: ie. over 18 and able to grow a mo.
Tegan, the Vixens’ brilliant, long-serving goal attack, had her reservations initially, but acknowledges all this as the “bit of fun” that was always intended.
“It’s not every day you look up to the stands and see boys cheering us on in Vixens dresses’. And then you add the wigs and the headbands, and the sunnies, and the posters, and …’’
Yes, the posters, or, as they’re fondly known among the creative VixMen, the “arts and crafts”. Strict rules apply, apparently, and names are drawn out of a hat to match the fan to the team member on game day.
“So it’s random and you don’t necessarily get your partner or somebody that you know well,’’ says Joshi. “The morning of the game we get together, we get A3 posters and some textas and then think up some funny puns, I guess, that we can cheer the girls on with.’’
Among the last batch, on the Royal Wedding weekend: ‘Harry has Meghan, Vixens have Tegan’. There was also a non-existent milestone for Sam Gooden. “They just decided it was Sam Gooden’s birthday, even though it wasn’t,’’ laughs Tegan. “So hers was ‘Happy Birthday Sam, have a Gooden’.’’ Boom, boom.
With typical good humour, Joshi claims there is surprising “demand” for the merchandise, (notably through couple of nibbles on Instagram via melbourne_vixmen), and male-specific tailoring may help in another sense. “Apparently the dresses cut off their circulation in certain areas - under the armpits and stuff,’’ Tegan admits.
One of the lads’ Mums supplied a team chant, while the group's motto is ‘one in, all in’. Which means that if the ladder-leading Fever host the Suncorp Super Netball grand final and the Vixens are in it, then a journey across the Nullarbor potentially awaits.
“It could be a big Vixens v Fever grand final, and I have no doubt that if it’s in Perth that we’ll fire up the bus and make the long drive over,’’ says Joshi. Reminded just how long that might take and how much quicker a plane flight would be, he insists: “We will seriously consider it. And hey, look, one in, all in, so if someone says they’re in, we’ve all got to follow!’’
By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.