The Adelaide Thunderbirds are the only team still yet to win a point under the revamped Suncorp Super Netball scoring system. Which, by extension, means their three opponents - Fever, Giants and Magpies - have each plundered eight.
The Melbourne Vixens are aiming for a similar result on Sunday, at Priceline Stadium, in their first away match of the season. Not to follow a precedent, however, but to pursue standards of four-quarter excellence that have long been in place.
“The aim every week is to get eight points,’’ says Vixens captain Kate Moloney. “You want to win games, which means you want to win quarters.
“So we’re aware of the points situation, but I think it’s more about going out there to win, because if you’re going out there to win you’re going out there to win quarters. It’s an interesting system.’’
So it is, but nor does it cloud vision of the primary goal: the four points (up from two last year) - no matter what the potential bonus bonanza may be, and how crucial that may become by season’s end.
Having flirted with defeat through patchy performances in the first two (winning) rounds, the Vixens’ stumbled for the first time in last Saturday’s narrow loss to the Queensland Firebirds. A disappointing last quarter fadeout was in stark contrast to an exceptional start.
The latter is closer to the template for what will be needed across the full 60 minutes to gain the maximum return against the Thunderbirds - a proud club that pushed the Magpies well into the second half at Hisense Arena last Saturday night.
“There’s nothing tougher than playing a team that’s just come off a loss, and the Thunderbirds have had three quite significant losses over the last three weeks. But they’re improving every week and they’re getting closer and closer,” said Moloney.
“They’ve got a side that has a lot of options they can put out on court, but they’re also a bit of an unknown. They’re a very different team to what they were last year and, when they’re playing well, like in that first and second quarter against the Magpies, they can match it with anyone.
“They took it up to a really good side in Collingwood, and if they can put that four quarters of netball together then they can compete with anyone. I don’t think their losses really reflect where they are at because they’ve done really well in quarters and they had enough ball, they got enough ball in defence. We know it’s going to be tough.’’
Shooters Cat Tuivati and Sasha Glasgow have been ruled not yet ready to return from their respective knee and ankle injuries, and a veritable foreign legion of Thunderbirds contrasts with a settled Vixens’ line-up.
Inhabiting the unfamiliar territory of fifth while preparing for the first of three consecutive games on the road, the Vixens are still seeking their own four-quarter effort, while working on returning to the fast and free-flowing style that is their trademark.
“We’ve been getting a bit clogged up, and we’ve looked at it at training and looked at different ways of making sure that we do have that space,’’ says Moloney. “It’s probably more in our goal third, so our goalers and midcourters just being aware and not trying to do too much.
“Sometimes we want to help too much, so it can just be about doing a little bit less, in terms of running to open up space and draw defenders rather than running to necessarily get the ball. I think if we just go out there and play with fearlessness and intent, it will all fall into place. It’s about not overthinking it, but just going out and playing.
“These are three really important weeks for us, there’s no easy team in this competition, and we have three really tough games on the road. But we love travelling together, so it will be good for us to get away and hopefully play some good netball.’’