The Melbourne Vixens have solidified their position atop the Suncorp Super Netball ladder, with a hard-fought five-goal win over GIANTS Netball at USC Stadium on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
On the day the Vixens launched their new #WitnessFearless campaign - in partnership with apparel partner Puma - the Vixens came out on court embodying the exact attributes the campaign is aiming to address as a social movement; relentless, fearless pressure, where giving up simply isn’t an option.
Vixens defender and Puma ambassador, Jo Weston, said the entire playing group were excited by the commitment Puma had made to the team and the sport as a whole.
“It’s a pretty exciting campaign we’ve launched in partnership with our partner, Puma,” Weston reiterated.
“People may have seen a video they released after there was a write up of Suncorp Super Netball in The Age before it [the season] had started, which gave our sport two-point-five stars out of five… I think we can plead ignorance to the journalist who actually may have written it, but I think it sort of touched on some old stereotypes of netball, that it’s a girls-only sport or that it’s a little bit petty or a little bit precious.”
“I know we’ve worked so hard off the court to show that that’s not the case, and that’s why we’re really pushing that forward with Puma to say there’s so much that goes on [both] behind the scenes and out on court that it’s not a sport for [just] schoolgirls anymore.”
This Vixens lived up to this mantra on the court. After a disappointing second quarter, which saw the GIANTS edge ahead at the main break after winning the term convincingly - 11-17 - the Vixens burst out of the blocks in the second half, convincingly dominating the third term; 24-17.
Despite Mwai Kumwenda and Caitlin Thwaites trading Super Shots with GIANTS’ goalers Jo Harten and Kiera Austin at the other end in the final five minutes of a term, the gap was enough for the Vixens to hold on to throughout the final term, for a gritty five-goal win.
Melbourne Vixens Head Coach, Simone McKinnis OAM, said she was pleased with the patience and never-give-up attitude her team showed out on court today.
“From start to finish it was a genuinely tough game across the board,” McKinnis said. “You know, GIANTS were just working really hard and we were struggling and not finding any flow and it took us a while to adapt to that, but I think it was a tough battle through that middle third across the board.”
“It wasn’t easy for us in that first half and there was some errors, but our ability to just keep going and keep at it, and just waiting for those openings and obviously some changes helped that,” McKinnis continued.
“But when the opening came, we went for it, and I’m really happy that we held off, because…how many two point shots did they shoot?! That was unreal wasn’t it? That could’ve changed anything, so our ability to stick it out, not panic, and push it through to the end, I was really happy with that.”
Like the Vixens, the GIANTS have one of the most versatile shooting circles in the competition, and the combination of Harten and Austin was electric today – so much so that Australian Diamonds Captain, Caitlin Basset, remained on the bench for the entire game. Switching up between goal shooter and attack, Austin was particularly impressive, shooting at 88% on her one-point shots, as well as 8/9 two-pointers.
“I hold my breath and ride every shot!” McKinnis laughed at the impact the Suncorp Super Shot could have had on her side’s fortunes today. “It’s about recognising the moments when to go for it, because I think there was a couple of times when we did just need to put the one point in rather than going for the two, but we’ll learn from that, that’s what we take out of these games.”
The Vixens played the first half with the tried-and-true combination of Thwaites at goal shooter and Tegan Philip at goal attack, before McKinnis switched things up in the second half, bringing Kumwenda on at shooter and moving the veteran, Thwaites, to attack. The move was inspired, with Kumwenda shooting at 94% for the one-pointers, and 3/4 Suncorp Super Shots, whilst Thwaites shot at an incredible 100% from under the post for the entire game.
Not backwards in coming forwards, Weston spoke about the different defence tactics her, Emily Mannix and new partner in crime, Kate Eddy, worked on, including the now popular move of switching Eddy and Weston between the goal and wing defence positions as needed.
“I think we’re all just adjusting to different styles of play, where there’s a few tactics involved,” Weston explained.
“So Kiera was their main two-point shooter today so whether we both defend the shot, [or] whether we double-defend her in the ring, is all kind of part and parcel of the new version of the game, but there were lots of [Suncorp] Super Shots today…I just wish we got some kind of bonus as a defender, it’s not a team sport if one player is more valuable than the other are they?!”
Weston also addressed the fact that her side seemed to be more adaptable when sides pushed them from playing outside of their preferred game plan thus far in 2020.
“In that first quarter in particular we did get a little bit of turnover ball and weren’t able to capitalise on it, and historically that wouldn’t have ended as positively as it has today for us at the Vixens, so it’s really exciting to see a bit of progression there across our team in terms of being able to ‘win ugly’.”
The Vixens will now look to their Round 7 clash, where they will once again face the Adelaide Thunderbirds, the one team who has got the win over them thus far in season 2020. The Thunderbirds will host the Vixens this Wednesday night, August 26, at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena. The match will be broadcast live on Telstra TV and the Netball Live App from 7.30pm.
Round 6 Statistics
Mwai Kumwenda: 25/28 (89.3%)
Caitlin Thwaites: 24/28 (85.7%)
Tegan Philip: 8/12 (66.7%)
Emily Mannix: 4 gained balls, 2 intercepts, 6 deflection, 1 pick up
Kate Eddy: 4 gained balls, 2 intercepts, 5 deflections, 1 pick up
Jo Weston: 3 gained balls, 2 intercepts, 2 deflections, 1 pick up
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