The Melbourne Vixens walked into John Cain Arena with a sense of belief this afternoon, hoping to get their first win for the season. While their intensity was certainly inserted from the get-go, the stop start game became too much for them, come the final siren.
After a gallant fight and courageous push to the end, the Vixens have suffered yet another defeat, going down 54-68 to an impressive Giants side.
Head coach Simone McKinnis OAM bravely shook things up in the starting seven line up, with captain Kate Moloney in WA and Allie Smith starting in C. While the Vixens came out of the blocks with electricity and tenacity, it was the Giants’ pressure and their ability to convert Suncorp Super Shots that kept them in the lead.
McKinnis was relatively pleased with how the team performed but is still searching for a consistent amount of pressure presented across the full 60 minutes of the game.
“I thought we played some of our best netball at different times of that game that we’ve shown so far this season,” McKinnis said.
“There was some really positive play. I thought there was some good flow of the ball and we were letting it go to MJ, but then we just hate to see a final score like that.
“I thought that we were in the contest, and in the game for most part of the day. It’s just disappointing to see it blow out like that in the end.
“We’ve got to be able to maintain the high standards we set ourselves for how we want to play.”
Ruby Barkmeyer started the game in GA, but at the six-minute mark of the opening quarter, Kaylia Stanton got her opportunity and did everything she could to stay out there.
“I thought Kaylia came on strong and moved really well, which opened it up for us. She got some great depth and let some good ball go off that centre pass. I think that really assisted us down in that attack end.
With the 5200 screaming Vixens fans willing their team from the sidelines, it was Mwai Kumwenda who was again taking aim at the ring at every chance she got, shooting 34 of our 54 goals. Although the Vixens came close at many moments of the game, and at one stage only three goals separated the two sides in the third quarter – the accuracy of the Giants goalers and their ambitious Super Shot releases saw them stream ahead.
“They’ve got to acknowledge what it felt like [to be that close], and how hard they worked to get there. In these games, the effort must be for 60+ minutes and that one minute or even 30 seconds of where the momentum shifts can really open things up.
“The Giants shot exceptionally well, and we’ve got to be nailing our shots more. There was hard work, but I can’t be comfortable with working hard and nearly getting there, we’ve got to be demanding more of each other and pushing for more from each other.
“While there was some really positive stuff out there, we’ve got to be able to push on and grab hold of it.”
Kate Eddy had fire in her belly today, working hard on Maddie Hay and offering plenty throughout transition. Fellow defender Emily Mannix had her best game for the season, claiming three crucial intercepts, 4 gained balls and 2 deflections – winning the ball back into the hands of the Vixens. Jo Weston was hungry for a win today and you could see the fight in her eyes as she stared down Jo Harten in every defensive play – also gaining 4 balls, 1 deflection and 1 intercept.
In the attacking end, Kate Moloney and Hannah Mundy were providing plenty of drive to the top of the goal circle. They were combining well in their give and go’s and shared the load when it came to feeding into the goalers. Mundy impressed her head coach, after winning 2 gained balls and taking 2 soaring intercepts when in defence mode.
“I think Hannah also came on really strong. She took her drives, played her game, took it on, took some strong balls and let some strong balls go. So, I was really pleased with the way she came on.”
After suffering four heartbreaking losses to start their 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season, the Vixens are in unfamiliar territory – yet, legend of the game and multiple Championship coach in McKinnis is yet to give up that easily.
“It’s a different way of coaching this year, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s all well and good when things are going smoothly as a coach, but this is what real coaching is about – when you’re looking and working for a win and trying to keep people in it. It’s about drawing what you need from each match and helping them build on their confidence.
“This is the time where you are challenged as a coach, but also when you find out what kind of coach you really can be. I’ve been in this position before, but I enjoy seeing the improvements and the growth and that’s what we’ve got to look at this season.
“That’s four losses now, but each week is an opportunity and that’s what it is about for us.”
The Melbourne Vixens will look to redeem themselves next weekend against the Queensland Firebirds as they return to Nissan Arena on Saturday, 29 May. While the stadium has fond memories of the 2020 SSN Championship win, their focus will be elsewhere as they come head to head with an emerging Firebirds team. You can watch live on Channel 9 at 3pm.