The Melbourne Vixens now sit as outright leaders atop the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) ladder, after a hard-fought three-goal win against reigning Premiers, the NSW Swifts.
In what was a highly-anticipated, one-versus-two match-up, it was a dominant 17-13 performance in the third quarter that set the Vixens up for the 63-60 win.
Today marked the first time the Vixens had beaten the Swifts since 2018, and it also sees the Vixens get one hand on the Sargeant-McKinnis Cup for 2020, a perpetual trophy that is played for every time the Vixens and the Swifts meet.
Melbourne Vixens Head Coach, Simone McKinnis OAM, said she was thrilled with her team’s efforts against one of the competition’s top teams.
“I’m exceptionally happy,” McKinnis reiterated. “I’m really pleased and I thought it was a really high quality game, [and] a tough game. It was a great game of netball to watch, but I certainly think that we lifted our performance today which was really positive and good to see.”
“I was just really proud of them because I think it was just a really important step for us,” McKinnis continued. “They beat us three times last year, and certainly in the Preliminary Final gave us a good whack, so I think it was a significant step for us. It doesn’t mean that ‘we’re all that’ now, it’s just a good hard-fought win.”
“It was a really tough game and it’s a game that was close…I think that’s just the experience that we need, and I reminded them at the end, ‘remember how hard it was and how hard you worked for that because it doesn’t get any easier from here on.’
“I think that was really good experience for them to be in that tight, tough, hard, game-on-the-line environment…I thought that was excellent and in the end they held their composure and control quite well.”
In what may have been a surprise move for some, McKinnis switched out Round 7 MVP, Emily Mannix, for Jamaican goal keeper, Kadie-Ann Dehaney; a move which proved inspired.
“I was really impressed,” McKinnis confirmed. “We spoke about it during the week, that she hasn’t been on court much, and we talked about being ready when your moment comes, and I was really impressed with the way that she came on; she had intent and purpose and had a crack and she was great for us.”
Dehaney matched up well on Swifts shooter, Sam Wallace. In her 33 minutes on court she picked up a game-high seven deflections.
“It’s very hard to be behind Emily [for the goal keeper position] because you have to keep that intensity [up] because Emily is a very good player, so it’s very hard for me,” Dehaney said after the game. “But I tried today to keep the tempo and keep going and everything like that, and I think I just took that opportunity today.”
Mannix added that it was incredibly valuable for the team to have so many options down the defensive end.
“I think that’s something that’s really great for us is that we both offer something different that can be used whenever, and I think KD did an awesome job today coming on really strong, and we spoke about that today just coming on strong [and] doing your thing, because it’s that change that I think threw them off as well, and I think that worked really well for us as well.”
“Credit to KD and the girls out the front doing all the work,” Mannix continued, they did a really good job and [it was] seamless; KD came on really seamlessly and got the job done so I think it was a really good defensive effort by everyone.”
Down the other end of the court, Mwai Kumwenda took to the court for the full 60 minutes for the first time this season, and was ruthless in attack, shooting at an impressive 92%. McKinnis was pleased that the team’s plan to move the ball quickly down the court in order to maximise Kumwenda’s ability had paid dividends.
“Certainly a focus of ours has been letting the ball go and moving the ball with a bit more pace and speed, and when we do that then it’s easier to be feeding it and finding MJ as well,” McKinnis explained, “so [it’s] another positive side of our game that worked well for us today.”
McKinnis added that despite the packed schedule of the condensed 2020 season, physically her team is holding up well.
“It’s not unlike the training load that we have back home [during a regular season], so everyone’s travelling really well, but we’re spending a lot of time on recovery, treatment, massage…all of that is part of what happens between now and Tuesday.
“But it doesn’t get any easier,” McKinnis reiterated. “It’s tough each game so we have to be ready to bring our best each game, and I know I’ve got players out there that are capable and ready.”
Next up the Vixens will be hosted by the GIANTS to commence Round 9 of the 2020 SSN season. The match will be played at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena, and broadcast live on Telstra TV and the Netball Live App from 5pm on Tuesday 1 Sept.
Round 8 Statistics
Mwai Kumwenda: 46/50 (92%)
Tegan Philip: 12/16 (75%)
Caitlin Thwaites: 5/5 (100%)
Emily Mannix: 3 gained balls, 2 deflections, 1 intercept
Jo Weston: 5 gained balls, 5 pickups, 4 deflections 1 intercept
Kate Eddy: 1 gained ball, 1 intercept, 1 deflection, 3 pickups
Kadie-Ann Dehaney: 7 deflections, 2 gained balls