Anita Lussetti is the epitome of a loyal and passionate supporter and falls seamlessly into the ‘super fan’ category, having watched and observed Australia’s national league netball with her niece since the Melbourne Phoenix and Kestrels days.
Although twenty years her junior, Anita’s niece has been by her side the entire time and was enlisted by her to jump on board the Melbourne Vixens bandwagon during the year of inception in 2008.
“When we joined, it was around the time I did my knee, not with an ACL, but I did the cartilage and I was at a transitioning point of my career and caring for my parents so it was really quite a weird time and I thought let’s give it a shot,” Lussetti said.
“I couldn’t play [netball] at the time, but I was anticipating going back…but I never did. So, I transitioned from playing to a member and loved every minute of it.
“For me it is a passion, I’ve played since I was seven, so I’ve played for 30-odd years at a social level.”
“I love the game, always have loved the game and so I stuck with it, and it gives me an outlet.”
Anita claims she has watched close to every single ANZ Championships and Suncorp Super Netball game, whether they be live or recorded.
“My family know not to bother talking to me during game day. You don’t want to stand in front of me, unless you want your ears cleared. I love it so much.”
“I didn’t understand, you know when people talk about the one-eyed Magpies supporters. I didn’t understand that until now.
Likening her patriotic Victorian passion for the Vixens to the ongoing COVID-19 divide, Anita is also very much against every other state and their sporting teams.
“I’m a very passionate Victorian… I’m just a very passionate and patriotic person. I liked the idea that when they started saying the Vixens family, that I felt part of that.
“When I first started attending [games], there were a few people nearby that I met, and have now got to know, like my friend Felicity Dess (pictured).
“Obviously with the new change of the [SSN] rules, we’ve been messaging each other…’what do you think’ – all that sort of stuff. It really does feel like a family.
“I still feel very proud of the girls. Right throughout all the seasons, the Vixens have just been an outstanding team.
“I don’t know what it is…even when they weren’t winning, you can see their heart and soul. It’s always on the court, it’s just always there. Maybe I’m one-eyed, but I don’t see it as much in other players and teams. I feel like it’s us versus the rest.
Taking a strong interest in the ANZ Championships from the get-go, Anita can still remember the joy she felt when Victorians would take to the court for an interstate or New Zealand team. In Anita’s eyes, the calibre of netballers that are produced from the Netball Victoria pathway is a true testament to the development work from coaches and players.
“The one thing about netball is, we’re sportspeople, we’re not anything more and not anything less, and there’s never been incidents or issues. You don’t hear about it like you do with the rugby and the indiscretions from some of the male sportspeople.
“To me, that’s part of the person that they are [the Vixens]. People will follow a footy team and the player might be excellent, but he’s had an indiscretion and it doesn’t matter to them, it’s about the player.
“But to me, it does. I have a lot of ethics regarding what the person is on and off the court and that is what I love. When I follow and watch some of the girls Instagram pages, it is just fabulous.
“They are just genuinely beautiful people, so you kind of want to know them. It really has been fantastic. I’ve never watched any of the building shows, but then Bianca [Chatfield] was on there [The Block] and you kind of go, oh this is a different side of her to watch so that’s the sort of thing I love about it, it’s complete.
“They would never be negative about anyone. That is a genuine side of a person, you can’t just grow that and make them say what they need to say, it’s a genuine part of them and that’s what I love too.
“The Vixens do a great job of marketing and sharing the family. It really feels inclusive.
“I was just listening back to one of Jo’s ‘Words of the Week’ and she’s just comical, but intelligent, and she’s very open with her life and she is quite interesting.
As the Vixens adjusted to training from their homes and zooming with their teammates during lockdown mark one, a #VixensAtHome segment was created on social media to engage both the fans and the players. Ranging from player takeovers, at-home workouts, recipes, humorous adventures, podcasts, TikToks and other eclectic activities, the players took control of the content to provide an update on what life was like for them in isolation.
“I’ve made recipes from Caitlin, so I’ve followed some of those. The girls are doing such a fantastic job and it’s a wonderful distraction from everything going on in the world at the moment.
“It’s been a challenging time, so it’s been really nice to have that family within the Vixens around me. I feel like they’re here for me.
When asked to list her favourite player of all time, Anita struggled to name just one, and was rather hesitant to decide as she has followed the journeys of so many over the years.
“When the Vixens first started, it was hard to not go past Sharelle. Having her back coaching is awesome.
“I remember when Victoria first hosted the 2014 pre-season comp, we heard that Elissa McLeod was withdrawing because she was pregnant, so all the games they played for the pre-season they put Liz Watson in there.
“None of us knew who she was, she was such a young person coming in. They played her in centre for the whole competition. She was run ragged to get them up and going for the season, and they went on to win the Premiership.
“So, I’ve got a real close fondness for her because she’s just an amazing player.
“When I played, I did play GA, but I’m very short so wing was generally my position. So, I love her.
Although a soft spot for Liz Watson, not many can go past her courageous fellow Co-Captain in Kate Moloney, and fan favourite, Mwai Kumwenda.
“Captain Kate…what can you say. I mean, she’s amazing. When she became captain, I thought…‘oh, this is interesting, I did not see that [coming]’. But the moment you started hearing her you went, ‘now I know [why]’.
“I also remember watching MJ when she played for the Tactix. They recently showed some players who were running with the ball and bouncing it off the pole as they go to shoot because they needed to pass it.
“Yet, MJ was doing this back in 2010-11, where she was outside the circle, passing the ball to the post, bouncing it off the post, and catching. No one’s caught up with her because she’s that far ahead of everyone, that she’s bounced it off the post, caught it and gone for a shot.
“I was just astounded. So, I’ve always loved her. When she came back to Victoria and the Vixens, I was like, ‘yes, we want her, we need her!’
“As a team they are so connected. I can’t pick one!”
Having never missed a home game since the beginning of the Vixens’ campaign, Anita was hoping she would be the lucky one to sneak into a game so her streak wouldn’t be compromised, as the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the Suncorp Super Netball season.
“It’s kind of a thing that is worrying me [not being there], because it means I actually have to say I have missed some games because of COVID and I’m not happy with that, I can tell you.
“All the entertainment and stuff at the game is nice but it doesn’t affect me either way, it’s more for getting other people there, you don’t have [have that] to get me there!
“If you have nothing else going on other than the game then I will still be there. I love watching other games because obviously I love netball. When they have had celebrity games, or the men or the ANL games, all that is a bonus.
“I was really impressed getting the 10-year badge and getting walked out on to court and having our names up there. It was something I wasn’t expecting.
“I’m easily pleased, just give me netball!” Lussetti laughed.
With the last Vixens Premiership back in 2014, Anita is hopeful the players and coaches will be rewarded for their efforts in 2020, particularly after such an exhausting and demanding season.
“You know how much work they put into it, and you want it for them, and you want to see the joy on their faces. Each time we have won [the Premiership] the joy to see them win has been fabulous.”
When reflecting on her favourite Vixens memories, Anita could not help but praise the brilliance of star defender, Emily Mannix, who was unfortunate not to be gifted a Diamonds dress in 2019.
“I was really sad for Em and the girls that missed out on the Diamonds. I was frustrated for them, so when they came out and just played like Diamonds against the GIANTS, and then in the Semi-Final against Collingwood, [that] was just amazing”.
“Em getting those nine intercepts. Everyone was watching everyone else and watching key players like Shamera Sterling, but to me Em is up there. She’s such an amazing player, she’s funny, she’s cheeky, but so cool and such a great player. Playing with Jo, the two are so connected they are wonderful to watch. There is not just one special player.
“I remember watching the 2009 Vixens Premiership win, and there was a point in the first quarter where Sharelle came face to face in a bump with Mo’onia Gerrard. I will always remember that Sharelle had a white line fever type of attitude and that bump turned it on for her and we got a five goal advantage after that bump because she just got so aggressive, and we won it by about five because of that. I always went ‘thanks Mo’onia!’”
To Anita’s surprise and delight, it was very fitting that her favourite player in Lizzy Watson joined our zoom call to have a friendly chat and thank her for her support. The conversation floated from general discussion to learning a bit more about each other, it was inevitable that the Suncorp Super Shot would be brought up.
“I’m old school, and I did enjoy it in the international comp because it does bring some excitement, but I’m more concerned about the impact to the players when we play internationally if that becomes part of the mindset,” Lussetti said.
“You’re going to have to change your attitude in those last five minutes and where you pass the ball to get them in the two-point shot, if they’re available, so there’s so much to change and challenge you. I think they needed to give you more bit notice too.
“I’ve been reading a little bit from the Players’ Association notice as well, and then I read Fitzy’s [Ryan Fitzgerald] take on it and I thought ‘no I don’t like this’ and ‘not really happy with the attitude’ he was implying that they are trying to change things to bring spectators into the game and that’s the way to get men involved in watching the game.
“So, if that’s what it takes it’s really a bit frustrating for me because this is the game that I’ve grown up loving. It’s an amazing game as it is.
Liz offered her thoughts on the matter in response.
“I’m the same, I’m such a traditionalist. I think having it in Fast5 is good for Fast5 and I think they wanted this big controversy and talk around it, but hopefully it pays off and we get some more fans.
“I think it totally changes how we are going to have to play, as defenders you are told to push them away from the post and now we have to push them close. I [think we’re] lucky we have got some pretty good long bomb goalers in our team.
“Simone says that we’ve just got to let it go, the decision has been made, nothing we can do to change it now.”
Anita further praised Liz and the team for their ‘can-do’ attitude and their willingness to move on and get on with things, whether they agree or disagree with the matter, whether it be on or off the court.
“When I’m competitive it’s really hard to let something go, but you women just get on, like a split second, it’s like ‘I can’t change it’. I don’t know how you mange that, it’s really amazing.
“I think that’s what I observe with other players and other teams and that’s what their downfall is because they hold on to that, that moment where they were hard done by, by the umpire or whatever it is.
“That’s one thing I am really proud of with the Vixens players, they are really great on getting on with the game, get on with what’s going on and there’s no point in looking back; that split second is done.”
It became clear from Liz that that attitude and persona derived from Simone and the coaching staff and the amazing netballers they have had the privilege of learning from over the years.
“Yeah, that has come from Simone at training. If we drop our head or don’t chase up a loose ball, she has got us sprinting, and everyone sprinting, it really translates. It’s really rewarding to see those kinds of things being implemented out on the court,” Watson said.
“You definitely see it. You see the passion, you see that your heart is on the court all the time which is why I love it,” Lussetti said.