Written by Amelia Barnes
Emily Mannix was destined to become a Melbourne Vixen since being scouted by former Australian Diamond Di Honey at an Association Championships carnival in 2009.
Today, Mannix played her 100th national league game in Round 12 of the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season.
The vice-captain becomes the fourth current Vixens athlete to reach this career milestone, joining the ranks of Kate Moloney, Liz Watson, and Jo Weston who all grew up playing together in the Netball Victoria pathway.
“I've known Liz, Kate, and Jo since I was 15, and we're all 29 or 30 now,” said Mannix.
“I feel very lucky to have played with all of them for so many years. I think that is something quite unique now, especially with international players coming over and playing in what is the best league in the world. It’s probably quite rare to see so many players in their home state playing for so long.”
Mannix clearly remembers her Vixens debut in the 2015 ANZ Championship season.
The goal keeper was called onto court at half time of Round 10 when the Vixens were down by 15 goals to the NSW Swifts. The rookie was tasked with taming the experienced Diamonds shooter Caitlin Thwaites, who would later become her Vixens and Diamonds teammate, and is now one of her Vixens coaches.
2023 marks Mannix’s seventh season playing at the elite level. Initially placed ‘behind’ the team’s experienced defenders Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor, Mannix eventually made the goal keeper bib her own, and has been in the starting lineup most games since 2017.
Mannix made her Diamonds debut in the August 2017 Quad Series after a standout domestic season featuring two games where she recorded 10 gains (Rounds 4 and 13).
In her own words, Mannix has had some “weird and wonderful” injuries over the years (a dislocated finger, serious concussion, and fractured knuckle among them) that delayed her from reaching 100 games sooner, but the journey has made this milestone all the more sweet.
A self-described “average” player growing up, Mannix believes her love of learning and challenging herself is what’s ultimately driven her netball success.
“I wasn't the best player in the team growing up, and I don't think I'll ever be that person either,” Mannix said. “I just loved playing, and I feel like I was able to take criticism and feedback and be able to use it in a positive way.”
“I always have a really positive outlook on things, and I always try to do the best for the team. I feel like that was probably something that enabled me to make it to where I am now.”
It’s a lesson Mannix shares with young players today, especially those struggling to make representative teams coming through the pathway.
“You don't have to be the one that all the parents say, ‘Oh, she's going to make it’ … I was never that sort of player. I always just went about my business, loved learning, and challenging myself, and really pushing myself and trying to make the next team.”
For the record, Mannix has notched up some lofty netball achievements including playing for the Australian Diamonds, winning the Sharelle McMahon Medal as Vixens MVP in 2019, and winning an SSN premiership.
She continues to reach new heights in her career today, including taking the game-winning intercept in the 2022 preliminary final, and recording a career-high 11 gains in Round 10 of the 2023 season against ladder-leaders the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
“Every year I sit down with Simone [McKinnis] in pre-season and we talk through my goals for the year, my strengths, and what I want to work on … and every year I say the same thing – that I feel like I can keep learning and keep going as a player,” said Mannix.
“I don't feel like you can ever really hit your peak – each year I feel like I can keep growing and improving, and I want to keep challenging myself in that space.”
Mannix says every season she’s played with the Vixens has taught her something new, whether that be winning a grand final or finishing last in 2021.
“I’ve loved every season for what it has offered, and I try – especially now that I’m probably more towards the end of my career than the start – to really try and soak it up every week and make the most of everything.”
Someone who’s been there through it all is Melbourne Vixens assistant coach Di Honey who first met Mannix in 2009. Honey recruited the young defender on a netball scholarship to attend Geelong Grammar School (where Honey previously coached), and the pair reunited when Mannix made the Vixens in 2015.
“I was over the moon and so was she,” said Honey recalling when Mannix was signed. “It was good to see a kid that's come through the pathway, had a scholarship with a school, that has then become a Vixen. It's just a really good story.”
Honey appreciates Mannix not only as a player, but for the qualities she brings to the team off the court, including her Aussie rock warmup playlists. “She's very caring, supportive, and fun-loving – everyone loves Em. She’s funny, she’s witty, and she’s an old soul,” said Honey.
“I reckon she's also probably playing the best netball she has in quite some time this year.”
To play 100 national games is a milestone for any netballer, but to do it for the one club, with four of the same players by her side, is something Mannix considers to be very special.
“Many people are forced to move teams for an opportunity or space, so I do feel very lucky to be in this position to play all these games for Vixens, and that they've wanted to keep me for all this time as well. I still pinch myself at that.”
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