The Melbourne Vixens will be looking to get an early jump on the dominant Sunshine Coast Lightning side this weekend, as they search for their first win of the season and an opportunity to celebrate in front of a Victorian home crowd.
While the Vixens fought gallantly against their grand final opponents, only to go down by 14 goals as the final quarter fell out of reach, the Lightning brought a storm to Melbourne as they overcame a surging Collingwood Magpies squad.
Jo Weston excelled, Kadie-Ann Dehaney soared and Mwai Kumwenda lead from the front in a new-look goal circle – but it wasn’t enough to counteract the West Coast Fever.
In round 1 we saw debutants, championship celebrations, retiree farewells and a warm welcoming to fans back in the stands – but this week the Vixens will switch their focus and re-set. Nerves will be steadier, and combinations will be smoother. However, the injection of youth into the side brought energy and excitement, more so for none other than head coach Simone McKinnis OAM who was beaming on the sidelines as the youngsters made their mark on the game.
Yet, it was the story of Kaylia Stanton that made the season opener more memorable than most, as she anxiously lined up against her former side for the first time since departing the club. Being the bubbly character that she is, the excitement far outweighed the worries, as she was just thrilled to be back out on court, and more specifically in the navy dress with the Vixens.
“It’s always such an honour to put the dress on, and I could not be more excited when I got out there,” Stanton said.
“It was definitely weird seeing the green dress on someone else other than myself, particularly being there for so long, but I was stoked to be out there playing for the Vixens and such an awesome opportunity.
“There were definitely some nerves before the game, I was feeling a little bit sick, mainly because I wanted to do everyone proud. My mum flew over for the game as well – so really special moment for me to be back out there.”
Having such a close bond with Fever defender Courtney Bruce, it was always going to be a match up fans would be eager to witness as the best friends when head-to-head.
“There was definitely banter before and after the game, but once we crossed that white line it was definitely straight into game mode and that competitiveness came out.”
Looking ahead to the Lightning, Stanton hints the Vixens have reviewed their round 1 appearance, taking away key areas of improvement as they prepare for the likes of Pretorius, Koenen and Wood.
“It will be a tough game, and it will be a really good hit out for us, we played them in pre-season, and I think what we want to look for is just an effort across four quarters.
“We know our work rate in the game last week wasn’t good enough and we’ve gone back to the drawing board and had a look at what we need to do for us to be back out there winning some games.
“They’ve got a really strong attacking line up and I think it’s about setting the standard from start of the game and putting that pressure right up on them and forcing some errors so that we are able to capitalise them down the other end.”
While Stanton will remember her first run in the Vixens for years to come, it was the opportunity to do so alongside the future stars of the Vixens camp.
“It was so exciting, I was so happy for them, and to be able to do that with them was very special for me. Both of them [Hannah and Ruby] are such exciting talent and prospects for the future of the Vixens, but also netball in Australia.
“It was awesome to see them out there and I know they are just going to grow and develop over the course of the season.”
The Vixens will gear up for another home clash, facing the Lightning at John Cain Arena this Sunday, 9 May at 1pm. Tickets are still available through Ticketek if you are looking for a family outing for Mother's Day.