The Melbourne Vixens have overcome a persistent Adelaide Thunderbirds side in the final moments of their first pre-season game of the weekend.
After trailing by two goals at three quarter time, the gallant Thunderbirds were not willing to slip away, however, two pivotal intercepts from Allie Smith got the Vixens across the line.
It was a game of moments from the first centre pass, as the Vixens home crowd erupted for Mwai Kumwenda and new teammate Kaylia Stanton as they found their spark together.
Emily Mannix was an intercept machine in the first quarter, claiming four in a matter of minutes, setting the benchmark for her team’s defensive pressure for the rest of the game. With the absence of Liz Watson on court, Tayla Honey stepped up into wing attack in the opening half, proving she can handle the pressure of the elite stage. The transition from defence to attack was promising, as Kate Moloney and Allie Smith found each other with ease, leading to a six-goal lead for the Vixens at quarter time.
Vixens head coach Simone McKinnis OAM was positive about the team’s performance post-game and was excited about the new combinations happening out on court.
“It was a really good start, so I was actually pleased with that because it was an improvement from previous games,” McKinnis said.
“It’s the ability to maintain that pressure through the whole game that is the next step for us. But certainly, Thunderbirds worked really well, and their defence was really strong in that second half.”
“We had to work hard for it, and we did in the end, so I was really pleased.”
Kate Eddy was embracing the Vixens’ new marketing campaign, instilling fearless in every aspect of her game. From big hits, to leaping fiercely across the goal circle, her intensity was an enormous boost for the new-look team.
While MJ stunned the opposition with a lay up in the second quarter, Kaylia found her confidence and fast footwork in the circle, assisting the Vixens to head into half time with an eight-goal lead.
The Thunderbirds came out charging in the second half, eager to bridge the gap, while the Vixens switched things up, injecting Hannah Mundy into wing attack. Holding her ground on the centre pass, Hannah also impressed on the circle alongside her fearless co-captain Kate Moloney, who was instrumental as a leader out on court today.
“One of the things in the second half that we will look to fix tomorrow was our conversion rate from our gained turnovers and gained balls into goals – it was a bit sloppy.”
“In these games, you do like to win and it’s good to experience these tight situations, but the overall objective is about the development and improvement of the team.
“Finding and working on those different combinations in a hard contest like this is really important.”
The fan-filled Ballarat crowd lifted when youngster Ruby Barkmeyer sneakily hit the court as a rolling sub with a minute left on the clock of the third quarter. Adjusting to the change of pace, Ruby did well to find her feet, and assisted MJ well in pressured plays.
“I think Tayla at wing attack in the first half was great, and Hannah too – they are very different players who played strong and definite. Kaylia as well, and also Ruby getting a taste for it out there too against a tough defence. It’s been really good experience for all of them.”
While it was a fight to the finish, it was ultimately the Vixens who were victorious as they held onto their one-goal lead with only 10 seconds remaining, taking the team back to the dying moments of the Grand Final win.
“In the first half there was really hard contest on the ball, and we put the pressure on, particularly at the end when we needed it, so very pleasing signs.
“Everyone was so excited to come up and play in Ballarat because we haven’t played in front of our own local Victorian crowd for so long, and also because they just love playing.”
The Vixens will return to the Ballarat Sports Events Centre tomorrow to host the Thunderbirds for one final hit-out. The Victorian men’s league will play a curtain raiser prior to the match at 10:15am, with the Super Netball champions starting from 12pm.
Tickets are available for tomorrow’s game and can be purchased through Ticketek.
The game will be livestreamed on the Vixens’ Facebook.