Pearce's Preview - Round 9

8 months ago

Emily Mannix’s devastating misfortune could be Kadie-Ann Dehaney’s opportunity, with coach Simone McKinnis backing the 192-centimetre Jamaican rookie to help fill the void left by the Vixens’ latest injury setback.

Emily Mannix’s devastating misfortune could be Kadie-Ann Dehaney’s opportunity, with coach Simone McKinnis backing the 192-centimetre Jamaican rookie to help fill the void left by the Vixens’ latest injury setback.

With the fourth-placed Vixens having already lost young shooter Emma Ryde to a fractured kneecap on the eve of the season, then learnt of Chloe Watson’s pregnancy news, and with back-up midcourter Khao Watts still sidelined with knee issues, Mannix needed surgery on Sunday on her dislocated finger with the timeline on her return unknown.

But the rangy Dehaney had some promising moments when called off the bench with the scores level during the third quarter of Sunday’s “Battle” against the Magpies, and remained opposed to the accomplished Caitlin Thwaites for the balance of the Vixens’ eight-goal win.

Indeed, Dehaney’s other playing minutes this season were against the NSW Swifts in the Vixens’ hard-fought 63-61 victory in round two, and the 21-year-old is likely to get the first start of her Suncorp Super Netball career in Saturday’s round nine rematch in Sydney.

The contest will also decide which of the two longstanding interstate rivals claim the annual Sargeant-McKinnis Cup.

“Kadie-Ann has been training really well the last couple of weeks,’’ McKinnis said. “She’s super-competitive and wants the ball, and she’ll give it everything she’s got.

“She has good height and reach and elevation, and the ability to get around and get hand to ball. She can be quite intimidating over the shot, rebound, and can read the play really well out the front.

“A consistent focus has been on the footwork - fast feet, eyes up, those sort of things. The basics. She’s been working really hard on those, and she may well surprise everybody. People haven’t seen that much of her.’’

Unlike after Watson’s departure, when experienced former Diamonds wing defence Renae Ingles had just fortuitously returned from the US, McKinnis has no experienced rabbits to pull from her hat this time, and instead has called up young Victorian Fury defender Jacqui Newton as a temporary replacement for Mannix.

But the squad has already shown it resilience and fortitude this season, and consecutive losses leading into the bye have been followed by resounding defeats of the top-placed West Coast Fever and the Magpies in the fortnight since.

“I’m very happy, because I think we’ve been better able to maintain that intensity and work-rate across the game, and we’re just playing with more confidence and letting the ball go,’’ McKinnis said. “The bye was a good break for us.’’

The Swifts have traditionally proved to be one of the Vixens’ tougher opponents, and their round two meeting proved to be no exception, with the hosts faltering in the second quarter but claiming the other three.

“That was a good example of how tight it is, and can be, between the two teams. It’s a hard slog,’’ said McKinnis, with both teams equal on five wins, and separated only by the Vixens’ (three) bonus point advantage.

“The Swifts are a hard-working team, and they’ve been playing some really good netball across this season so far. It’s just going to be super-competitive. They’ve shown that they’re more than capable of being a threat in this competition.’’

The Swifts also have the option of different shooting combinations from among Helen Housby, Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin, although McKinnis has stressed to Jo Weston, the last seasoned circle defender at the Vixens' disposal, to simply keep doing what she has been.

“She just still needs to just do her job, and Kadie-Ann or whoever is behind her will do their job as well, and they’re better protected with Jo doing her job out the front,’’ McKinnis said of her close-checking goal defence, as Weston prepares for her 50th game.

“She shouldn’t feel like she has to do everything. The first thing is she’s got to focus on her role, because that’s the biggest help Jo can be for the rest of the defence end.’’

By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.

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