As Simone McKinnis watched Sunday’s Suncorp Super Netball grand final from her lounge room, the fact that it was such painful viewing had nothing to do with how impressively the NSW Swifts’ dethroned the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
For McKinnis, the Melbourne Vixens’ disappointing exit at the preliminary final stage - via a 13-goal loss to the Swifts - had ensured third place would remain their best result in the competition’s three seasons.
It stings, still.
“All week it just burnt that we weren’t going to be there - and rightly so, because we didn’t earn the right to be there, so it’s always hard to watch the final, because it’s just a reminder of what you didn’t do. Or that your season’s over and you’re not there again,’’ McKinnis said.
“But the Swifts were fantastic right from the first whistle and, really, they were the best team all year, and then they showed it at the end of the year. That ability to maintain control and composure, maintain ball, keep the pressure on from start to finish, and that teamwork, that’s what wins you grand finals.’’
As for the Vixens’ players? “I hope they were watching it and I hope it hurt. It should hurt.’’
Thus, after another unfulfilled season for a team with premiership aspirations, the post-elimination review process started with individual interviews that included the broader squad members, and then extended to a collective dissection of the program from all angles.
The pre-season and lead-in? Tick.
Strong wins against the Firebirds, Giants and Thunderbirds to start? Tick.
Six wins and a draw from the opening nine rounds, ahead of the World Cup break? Pretty good, overall.
What followed, though: just three victories from the last seven games, including finals.
“Every team had the same situation with that World Cup break, but I don’t think that we came out of it as well as we could have,’’ McKinnis said.
“We didn’t regain that momentum in the back end of the season. There was really good and not so good, and that’s what we’ve got to be able to sort out. We were chasing our tails somewhat trying to find that consistency, and it just really hurt us.
“Consistency is a bit of a cover-all word, but that’s a key area and a key challenge for us and how we do it better in that space. There is no easy answer to that and that’s what we’ve got to work through.
“And it’s not just as a team, it’s individuals at different times who were up and were down and so everybody across the board has to be accountable and responsible for changing things.
“I believed that we could have been good enough to (win the premiership). But again it’s that bit of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, and that’s disappointing.’’
McKinnis nominated shooter Mwai Kumwenda’s return from her ACL rupture as a positive, “and I know and she knows there’s so much better still to come with MJ, and I’m excited about that".
The 2020 team list remains a work-in-progress, with core group Kate Moloney, Liz Watson, Jo Weston and Emily Mannix all still under contract, but Renae Ingles’ retirement leaving a vacancy for a WD/GD or WD/C, another midcourt slot open and the shooting end still to be finalised.
Moloney (C) and Watson (WA) were named in the Nissan Net Points Team of the Year along with Shamera Sterling (GK), Karla Pretorius (GD), Ash Brazill (WD), Helen Housby (GA) and Jhaniele Fowler (GS).
The Vixens' awards function, including the presentation of the Sharelle McMahon Medal, will be held at Metropolis Events next Thursday, 26 September.
Written by Linda Pearce
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