265 days have passed since the last time the Vixens took to the court in Suncorp Super Netball. Wow.
Members - remember to bring your paper ticket to enter the venue, but also your membership card to access the pre-match function from 1.45pm.
Captain Kate Moloney has hailed the Vixens’ depth as the best in her seven seasons at the premiership-winning club, nominating little-known South African import Ine-Mari Venter as an important addition to a new-look shooting circle.
Moloney said the 192-centimetre Venter has the ability to play in either goaling position, complementing the speed and agility of Tegan Philip and the renowned scoring power of another key inclusion, Diamond Caitlin Thwaites.
“I know a lot of people speak about depth, but across the 10 players I think it’s the best that we’ve had since I’ve been around,’’ Moloney said ahead of Saturday’s clash with long-time rivals the Queensland Firebirds to open the season at Melbourne Arena.
“I think Ine-Mari adds a lot to that. She can play goal shooter and goal attack, she’s different to the shooters that we have and she’s just really confident and independent. She’s just been a breath of fresh air.
“Caity Thwaites is a world-class player. She’s one of the best shooters in Australia - in the world. She brings so much knowledge and experience and she’s very giving of herself to make sure that the players around her are better, as well. I just love how she gets the ball and she shoots from anywhere, she’s looking really fit and strong, too, so I think she’s in for a big year ahead.
“Then Lara Dunkley, who was a late inclusion to the side (in place of the injured Tayla Honey). She’s Victorian through and through, she’s been around the Vixens for a long time now, she knows what it’s about, and she just works extremely hard. She’s come in and shown lots and lots of positives, and when she’s stepped out on court she’s done a great job, as well.’’
Expectations are high after a productive pre-season, and nowhere more so than deep within the Vixens’ lair. Consecutive finals losses after winning the inaugural minor premiership in 2017 stung badly, before the Vixens’ faded to finish fifth in an injury-disrupted second year of Suncorp Super Netball.
“They both hurt, probably just as much (as each other),’’ Moloney said. “Last year being the most recent, we’ve spoken about it, and I suppose (with) the rich history that Victorian netball has, to not make finals is really not good enough.
“The year before hurt just as much at the time, but we’ve gone away this off-season, we’ve looked at the things that we needed to look at, and I think the new players that we’ve brought into our squad this year have made a really big impact. Everyone’s excited and ready to go, and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds.’’
The Vixens defeated the Firebirds in lead-up matches in both Brisbane and Bendigo but, despite that know to expect a closely-contested, high-scoring game against a perennial finalist boasting the formidable shooting duo of Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett.
“We’ve got to try and slow down the access to that goal circle,’’ Moloney said. “With Renae Ingles, Joey Weston, Em Mannix and Kadie-Ann Dehaney just the versatility we have down in that back end is going to be great.
“But we know when you play against a team like that, it’s just about hard work. There’s nothing more to it. You’ve just got to work your absolute butts off to make sure that you slow down that supply into their goal circle and give our keepers enough opportunity to try and get some ball.’’
Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said her team was prepared and ready to make its own history in the post-Laura Geitz era, despite some injury challenges over the summer.
“We have had a few niggles over the pre-season; in some ways, that wasn’t great, but in other ways it’s been really good to be forced to create new connections and new combinations, so it’s really increased the depth of our team, and that’s very exciting,’’ Simpson said. “We’ll have a full team in round one and that’s important. Having your full roster is vital to winning a competition like SSN.’’
Get behind the Vixens on Saturday with tickets available here.
Written by Linda Pearce.