Ten months on from their last encounter, the Melbourne Vixens will take on the Collingwood Magpies at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Sunday, in the ‘finally’ match of the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) League’s much-awaited Round 1 fixture.
Following a pre-season that has taken many twists and turns, not to mention lasted seemingly forever, keeping with the theme of bizarreness of 2020, the match will be played without a crowd, with both teams still under quarantine after relocating to Brisbane from Melbourne just under two weeks ago.
But all the oddities of the year thus far will be put aside when the first centre pass is thrown late on Sunday afternoon, as two fierce rivals prepare to do battle once more.
2019 was a year when the Magpies seemed to have the wood over the Vixens during the regular season, only for that to be turned around in the minor Semi-Final, when the Vixens trounced home, 62 to 49, in front of a rapturous home crowd at the State Netball Hockey Centre. The loss of key personnel in the Magpies camp throughout this period of time has been well documented, with only two members of the side from that day predicted to line up on Sunday, as a result of pregnancy and injury. However, according to newly-appointed Vixens Co-Captain, Liz Watson, this is not where her side’s focus lies.
“We’re really focussing on us because you can’t really focus too much on the Magpies,” Watson explained.
“Yes, we do know most of their players individually, we’ve played against them in Fury or growing up in our State League competition, so most of us do know them and their individual skills, but seeing them as a team and putting it out there all together, no one’s really seen that.”
In stark contrast of the Magpies, the Vixens will likely only have one change to their starting seven come Sunday; with the retired Renae Ingles departing the position of wing defence, and off-season recruit from the Premiership-winning NSW Swifts, Victorian native, Kate Eddy stepping in.
However, with the condensed season and new rules introduced just this week to help manage player loads, Watson expects the Vixens will not be the only team to blood some fresh talent this season.
“I think it’s a smart decision by the League to do this,” Watson continued, speaking of the addition of allowing 12 players on the bench, introducing rolling subs, and abandoning both extra time and the bonus point system for 2020.
“I think it’s very sensible in actually giving the players the opportunity to run off if they are feeling a niggle or whatever it may be and not actually pushing that set seven or 10 players each game.
The Vixens are in the fortunate position to have travelled to Queensland with the comparatively large squad of 14; on top of the 10 contracted players, squad members Sacha McDonald, Jacqui Newton, Elle McDonald and Allie Smith have also made the trip.
Watson’s fellow Co-Captain, Kate Moloney, echoed her counterpart’s sentiments.
“With the bonus point, you take them away and you might get to see some more young girls out on court and I think that’s always a positive, so hopefully we get to see some new young talent out there this season.”
The most controversial rule of them all however – the introduction of the two-point ‘Super Shot’ during the last five minutes of each quarter – remains untouched. Despite the Vixens camps’ well-documented displeasure at how the rule was implemented, they are now embracing the inevitable, and looking forward to seeing how it will play out.
“Some of the umpires who are in quarantine with us have also been coming to training throughout the week so we did clarify a few things, like if you step into the two-point zone and then go back to the one and all those little things that shooters just needed to clarify,” Watson explained.
Moloney added that whilst the Vixens are well-stocked when it comes to long-range shooters, the effect the introduction of the rule has on a defender’s game is equally as substantial.
“I think people probably don’t realise that it has just as big of an effect on our defenders as it does on our goalers. But we’re really lucky…we’ve got three - and with the girls (squad members) we’ve brought along, four - really great two-point shots, so we’re really looking forward to it. We can’t wait to see how it changes our game and hopefully it is a real positive.”
The Vixens will host the Magpies at Nissan Arena on Sunday afternoon from 5.30pm. The game will be broadcast via Telstra TV and the Netball Live App.
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