MATCH PREVIEW: VIXENS V FIREBIRDS

3 years ago

Redemption and revenge will be in full force in this coming Sunday's Grand Final rematch at Hisense Arena when the Melbourne Vixens host the Queensland Firebirds.

Both sides have been a shadow of their 2014 former selves in recent weeks and enter the Round 6 clash needing a win to keep in touch with West Coast Fever at the top of the Australian Conference, and away from the NSW Swifts who sit outside of current finals contention.

The Firebirds new partnership of Romelda Aiken – currently the third leading scorer in the ANZ Championship – and Gretel Tippett has proven to stretch opposition so far in 2015, while premiership Vixens player Caitlyn Nevins has found comfort in the starting seven at wing attack.

With Aiken's duel with Vixens goal keeper Geva Mentor one of the highlights of the 2014 finals series, the entertaining scoring circle battle is set to be renewed again this weekend.

Aiken's efficiency has risen to 84 per cent, with the added weapon of her long-range ball succeeding for 92 of her 179 goals so far this season.

The Vixens this week have been left to swallow the disappointment of losing star mid courter Madi Robinson for the rest of season, following the wing attack's rupturing of her anterior cruciate ligament in last weekend's loss to the Fever.

While the home side can boast superiority in three previous meetings including last year's Grand Final at Hisense Arena, the reigning champions will be out to snap a two-game losing streak.

Robinson's season-long absence will leave coach Simone McKinnis with some thinking to do in changing a starting seven that has served her well for so long.

Liz Watson and Kate Moloney may find new homes at wing attack and centre respectively, while young defender Jo Weston could be rolled out at wing defense.

Whatever the seven McKinnis decides on, the Vixens will be calling on every fibre that bought them glory last June to avoid a third straight loss.

The Facts:

LAST MEETING: 2014 Grand Final: Vixens 53 def Firebirds 42, Melbourne

  1. This will be the 18th meeting between the Melbourne Vixens and Mission Queensland Firebirds in the ANZ Championship. The Vixens have only played more head-to-head matches against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
  2. Vixens midcourter Madi Robinson will miss her first ANZ Championship match since 2008 this weekend after suffering a knee injury in their five-goal loss to West Coast Fever on Easter Monday. Robinson has played 95 ANZ Championship matches for both the Vixens and Fever. Robinson will miss the remainder of the season after suffering an ruptured ACL in her right knee.
  3. These two sides met four times in 2014 with the Firebirds winning the opening encounter in Round 3 in Melbourne (48-47) and the Vixens the next three – in Round 6 (50-38 in Brisbane), the Major Semi-Final (52-47 in Melbourne) and the Grand Final (53-42 in Melbourne).
  4. Two of the 10 matches played between the Vixens and Firebirds have been decided by one goal – both in Melbourne. The Vixens won 52-51 in Round 5, 2012 while the Firebirds triumphed 48-47 last year.
  5. The Vixens greatest ever loss in the ANZ Championship of 21 goals has been against the Firebirds – in Round 6, 2010 and Round 10, 2011. Both came in Brisbane.
  6. Two of the Firebirds four victories in Melbourne have been by 10 goals or more – Round 9, 2013 (57-46) and Round 8, 2011 (52-42).
  7. It's the first time since Round 4, 2014 the Vixens have lost consecutive matches. The Vixens 53-47 loss to Fever last round after their 47-45 Round 4 defeat against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
  8. Firebirds goal attack Gretel Tippett shot a career-high 22 goals at 71 per cent accuracy in their win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds last round. It's the second time in eight matches Tippett has shot a double figure goal tally.
  9. The Vixens have won the past three matches against the Firebirds, equalling their longest winning streak against the Queensland side. They also won three straight matches between Round 2, 2009 and Round 2, 2010.
  10. Firebirds shooter Romelda Aiken has scored 92 of her 179 goals in 2015 from long-range at 84 per cent accuracy. In 2014, she only made one of three attempts from long-range for the whole season.
  11. Firebirds midcourter Caitlyn Nevins spent 2014 with the Vixens, making four appearances, before joining the Queensland side this season. She has made five appearances for the Firebirds so far in 2015 and been the starting wing attack in their past three matches.Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield is one of three defenders ranked inside the top 10 in the competition with 11 rebounds. The others are Kia Magic's Leana de Bruin (14) and Adelaide's Eboni Beckford-Chambers (13). Teammate Karyn Bailey is also ranked inside the top 10 with 12.

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