Having shown in the past two years that membership records are made to be broken, coach Simone McKinnis says the Melbourne Vixens are determined to repay the faith with results when the delayed Suncorp Super Netball season eventually begins.
“Members that came on board with us right from the start, as a new club, have stuck with us until now, and they’re an important part of what we do, and how we do it and how we enjoy it,’’ McKinnis said. “The support we have and the crowds that we get at our games, they’re just super-important to us.
“We want to get out there and play, and we’re getting closer. It’s not been easy, but we just really appreciate the support of all our members who have been with us through good times and bad, and we will be ready to step out there and give it the best that we’ve got when the time comes.’’
Meanwhile, with an announcement on SSN not due until the end of the month, members of the tight-knit playing group have been training remotely in their homes from city to coast, and in temporary locations from Leongatha (Mwai Kumwenda) to Perth (Kadie-Ann Dehaney), collaborating via Zoom and remaining connected in various other ways.
Strength and conditioning work has been facilitated by equipment on loan from both the Victorian Institute of Sport and Renae and Joe Ingles’ personal gym, while the first collective footwork drills took place online last week. The gradual relaxation of government restrictions has given rise to optimism that, before too much longer, group training sessions will resume for the first time since early March.
That will involve a largely settled line-up Vixens’ line-up whose main addition is Victorian Kate Eddy from the NSW Swifts to replace the re-retired Ingles. Kumwenda will build on her late-2019 return from an ACL tear, and Tayla Honey will start again after an Achilles’ rupture ended her debut season before it began.
The Melbourne establishment team will, typically, be among the title favourites. Since being born from the merger of the Phoenix and Kestrels for the inaugural season of the now defunct trans-Tasman competition in 2008, finals appearances have been an almost annual event, with premierships coming under foundation coach Julie Hoornweg in 2009 and her successor McKinnis in 2014.
“A feature of Victorian netball and the Vixens has always been the high standards, always being in the contest and always pushing for success, and the members are along with us for that ride,’’ McKinnis said.
“There’s good days and not so good days, but everybody turns up the next week and ‘here we go again’. It’s not just us out on court playing. Everybody rides the emotions through the wins and the losses, and it’s great to have those members with us.’’
Some of them, indeed, were around for McKinnis’ own decorated career as a champion wing defence for club, state and country. “You see people that followed Victorian netball back in the day that I was playing whose children are members now, which is fantastic,’’ she said. “And certainly the diversity of the crowd is growing - I love seeing the dads with their kids coming along to the game. Love that.’’
A feature of every Vixens’ match day at Melbourne Arena is the players’ post-game interaction with the members and young fans, whether signing autographs, posing for selfies or pausing for a chat. Another constant drawcard has been the presence of crowd favourites including former great Sharelle McMahon and current stars such as Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and captain Kate Moloney.
So many Diamonds have shone in the Vixens’ colours - among them the club’s games record-holder Tegan Philip, who celebrated the 2019 membership milestone with 10-year members after the sold-out round seven game against the Magpies attended by a record home crowd of 8647 last June.
“The Vixens’ members are the backbone of our club and have been such a great support since I arrived at the Vixens in 2010,” Philip said. “To have such a large number of members backing us every week and investing in what we’re doing is really special; you really want to play for them and repay their support.”
Written by Linda Pearce