A season-defining crossroads greets both the Melbourne Vixens and the Southern Steel in their Round 8 clash at Hisense Arena tomorrow.
It's been a hard month for the Vixens with away losses to the Adelaide Thunderbirds and West Coast Fever, plus last week's home loss to the Queensland Firebirds and adjusting to life without star wing attack Madi Robinson.
Kelsey Browne was named earlier this week by coach Simone McKinnis as replacement player for the team and will stay with the Vixens for the remainder of the 2015 campaign.
The Steel look set to be locked in a battle for third in the New Zealand Conference ladder with the Mojo Pulse and need the win for confidence just as much as breathing space.
Their only two wins have come against the Mainland Tactix, including a record-setting 84-58 thumping in Christchurch just a fortnight ago.
The other win, back in Round 2, has seen the visitors experience just as difficult recent stretch highlighted by laying claims to the worst defensive record in the competition, conceding 61 goals per game.
Relying heavily on 198cm goaler Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, the Jamaican currently sits second on the ANZ Championship scorers list for the 2015 season, and needs just 16 goals to become the fastest player to reach 1500 goals in ANZ Championship history - which has been easy pickings for opposing sides aiming to deny Fowler-Reid's supply.
In the case of the Vixens - still the best defensive team in the competition, conceding just 47 goals per game - added responsibility will be on Steel goal attack Ta Paea Selby-Rickitt to move away from her regular pass-assist game, and focus on putting more shots up.
With the match poising to be Vixens shooter Karyn Bailey's 50th ANZ Championship match, the result, and how they construct the result will be key for the reigning champions as they look toward a new on-court seven to take them forward.
LAST MEETING: Rd 14, 2014: Steel 65 def Vixens 64, Invercargill
- The Vixens have lost three matches in a row for the first time since Rounds 7-9 in the 2012 season. They have not lost four consecutive matches since Round 9 in 2010.
- The Vixens are the No.1 ranked defensive side in the competition after seven rounds, conceding an average of 47 goals a match. The Steel is conceding an average of 61.2 goals a game.
- The Vixens have conceded 50 goals in consecutive matches for the first time since Rounds 10-11 in 2013, which included a 58-52 victory over the Steel in their last encounter in Melbourne.
- The Steel has an overall average losing margin of 10.6 goals from their matches played in Australia. Against the Vixens in Melbourne, that average is also 10.6 goals.
- Vixens goal shooter Karyn Bailey is scheduled to make her 50th ANZ Championship appearance this round. Bailey made her debut in 2012 and was a member of the Vixens' 2014 premiership side. She is third on the Vixens' all-time goalscoring list on 1174 goals behind Tegan Philip (1307) and Caitlin Thwaites (1186).
- Prolific Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid needs 16 goals to become the 12th player in the competition's history to reach 1500 career goals. If she achieves that feat, she will be the quickest player to get to that milestone. Sunday is scheduled to be her 33rd ANZ Championship appearance. Her career average is 46.4 goals a match.
- Two players made their ANZ Championship and Melbourne Vixens debuts in the side's loss to the Firebirds last round. Chloe Watson came into wing defence in the second quarter while Kelsey Browne played the second half at wing attack.
- Vixens midcourter Liz Watson had 16 goal assists in the loss to the Firebirds, the equal second best of any player last round behind Kia Magic's Grace Rasmussen (17). Selby-Rickit also had 16 in the Steel's loss to the Magic.
- Steel defender Phoenix Karaka is the leading player in the competition for blocks with four after seven rounds. The Vixens total of 64 goals in their last encounter with the Steel in Round 14 last season is their highest ever losing score.
- The Vixens have two representatives named in the Australian Diamonds Squad this week with shooters Karyn Bailey and Tegan Philip selected in coach Lisa Alexander's 18-player squad for the Netball World Cup.