The Vixens put on a four quarter performance to see off the Giants by 16 goals at Melbourne Arena on Sunday. The Giants looked powerful in patches, but lacked consistency across the game and the Vixens have now gone to the top of the ladder on percentage. The keys to this game for the Vixens were patience, accuracy in attack and confusing space in defence. In contrast, the Giants struggled to string passes together, to feed their shooters accurately and to convert ball they won in defence. They finished the game on 39 turnovers compared to the Vixens’ 24.
It was also Kim Green’s 200th national league game, an honour only shared by just two other current players in Caitlin Thwaites and Natalie Medhurst. It certainly featured the fieriness and speed that she is known for. The Giants put away the first three goals when Caitlin Thwaites missed her first shot. Caitlin Bassett looked strong early and the feed to her was working well. Her team mates were showing faith by looking straight into her from the second phase, led by the inimitable Green.
But one could sense a shift in the game, as Jo Weston and Emily Mannix began to work out the Giants’ attacking structure and adjust accordingly. This was when the errors started creeping in for the Giants and they didn’t seem to have a plan B. The speed of the game meant that both teams struggled with turnovers. But the Giants were quite simply throwing away the ball more and it was happening all over the court.
A timeout called by the Giants worked more in the Vixens’ favour. Renae Ingles led the charge, slowing down transition play through the midcourt and being constantly available to bring the ball through. This calming influence on the Vixens’ game saw the defensive circle of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston lift and they were able to interrupt the long ball into Bassett.
Tegan Philip started the game in fine form, while Caitlin Thwaites struggled against the defensive pressure from Sam Poolman. Philip was able to take on more of a shooting load in the first quarter and had her speed as an edge against Kristiana Manu’a. This was a physical battle throughout the game.
The Vixens slammed down the challenge in the last five and a-half minutes of the quarter, piling on seven goals to the Giants’ zero. Weston and Mannix were not letting the ball anywhere near the shooters. Ingles and Kate Moloney were holding their feeders off the circle edge and forcing the long and often inaccurate pass. Moloney in particular was doing a power of work against Amy Parmenter and managed to get a hand to several balls.
The Giants were beginning to look frustrated with misplaced balls in attack sailing over the sideline. The internal pressure from the Giants to play the game at speed was letting them down. Rather than playing it around or finding the safest option in attack, they were forcing it into the circle.
Poolman kept up her defensive efforts in the second quarter, making it hard for the Vixens’ feeders to find the space to feed Thwaites. However, the Giants were often wasting the turnover ball they got with errors in transition. They appeared to be speeding up the movement of the ball in an attempt to catch the Vixens’ off-guard, but the Vixens were quick to spring into defence across the court.
Thwaites continued to struggle against Poolman, but was doing a good job of drawing the defenders to her, while Philip made Sharelle McMahon-esque baseline drives, matched with accurate shooting. The well rehearsed combination of Philip, Liz Watson and Moloney worked well against some torrid defence from Manu’a and Poolman and the Vixens looked well in control of the speed of the game. Watson and Moloney led all other players on court for goal assists.
The Vixens had moments of sheer brilliance, but were also guilty of not converting turnover ball at crucial times. Ingles again produced some stunning defensive work, pulling off some spectacular intercepts and deflections when the ball had been turned over. The match up of Price and Watson was as physical as expected, and to Price’s credit, she was able to limit Watson’s output from Round 1 and force her into turnovers, but Watson remained her prolific self.
A clash in the midcourt partway into the second quarter saw Green leave the court looking winded and incredibly uncomfortable. Kiera Austin replaced her at wing attack for the remainder of the quarter. This began a very messy passage of play for the Giants with Harten and Manu’a both going down on a slippery-looking court within seconds of each other. The Giants were their own worst enemies, winning back ball and then turning it over with out of control passing. A timeout was called with six minutes to go in the second.
Their woes continued as the main break loomed and a massive lob by Price from the midcourt went straight over the sideline, missing all players on the court and showed the pressure the Giants were putting on themselves to find Bassett. The combination of Bassett and Harten is still a work in progress and they clearly have very different styles of play that have not combined effectively yet. The Vixens went into halftime up by nine goals.
Julie Fitzgerald brought Green back on for the third quarter, but at centre. Parmenter, who was struggling against the speed of Moloney, went to the bench and Austin continued in wing attack. The contest continued at high intensity with Mannix and Weston continuing to win ball in defence by confusing the space into Bassett.
Harten was flying under the radar by her high standards and was perhaps trying to do too much to bring the ball through the midcourt. The space, especially on the baseline, was often clear for Bassett to run into, but she stayed in the holding position which Mannix preferred. Mannix picked up five intercepts and two deflections against the taller Bassett and constantly threatened more. This defensive intensity was responsible for several turnovers.
Additionally, Austin was consistently available at the top of the circle where feeders have the best view into shooters. But in attack, her teammates were either not noticing her presence or fearful of Ingles intercepting it. Either way, this saw them go for a much harder feeding option, rather than taking the most straightforward path to goal.
There were some momentum swings towards the Giants in the third quarter. At one point, they brought the gap back to eight, but it was then turned over by a feed which sailed over Harten’s head.
This spelled the big difference between these teams. The Vixens did often struggle to drive through midcourt against the defence of the Giants, particularly Price and Manu’a, but they were willing to be patient, play the ball around a little and wait for the attack end to open up. The Giants were not as patient or accurate with the ball and continued trying to force it in. As a result, even when Bassett was able to take feeds which were a little too high, she was falling out of court as she did so, making the shot a lot more pressured.
Matilda McDonell made her debut for the Giants in the last quarter coming into goal defence, while Manu’a moved back to goal keeper and Poolman went to the bench. This was a somewhat surprising move, as Poolman had made a noticeable impact on Thwaites’ availability in the circle. McDonell, however, came onto court well and was better able to match Philip’s speed to cut off some of her drives.
Harten opened the quarter with an intercept to give the Giants the first two goals. The Giants, perhaps from fatigue or perhaps from coaching, had slowed down the speed of the ball considerably and this had a positive impact on their feeding accuracy. The Giants led the quarter at some points, but again lacked consistency.
Simone McKinnis opted to bring Kadie-Ann Dehaney on at goal keeper and she rewarded her coach quickly, getting tips to the first ball into the circle and making life very difficult for Bassett. The Giants called another timeout with seven minutes on the clock and play was slightly delayed, as one of the Vixens dancers had to be wheeled off the court with what looked like an ACL injury. When play resumed, the Giants looked tired. At one point, a missed shot from Thwaites which was turned over was almost immediately returned to the Vixens, as Giants players had their eyes off the play. Bassett also made the mistake of looking to the umpire for an obstruction or contact call on Dehaney and was instead called for held ball.
The Vixens took home all the points for the game and this takes them to the top of the table, equal with the Swifts on points and very slightly ahead on percentage. The Giants will be disappointed with their efforts against the Vixens and that they couldn’t fire on all cylinders for Green’s 200th game. A presentation was made to Green at the end of the game to honour her efforts. For the Giants, it will be back to the drawing board. The lack of training with Bassett in the preseason is showing and a lot more work will need to be put into building attacking combinations.
Melbourne Vixens 61 beat GIANTS Netball 45
(16-10, 14-11 15-10, 16-14)
Match MVP: Kate Moloney (Vixens)
GS – Caitlin Thwaites
GA – Tegan Phillip
WA – Liz Watson
C – Kate Moloney
WD – Renae Ingles
GD – Jo Weston
GK – Emily Mannix
Bench: Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Ine-Mari Venter, Lara Dunkley.
Changes: Q4: GK Dehaney
GS – Caitlin Bassett
GA – Jo Harten
WA – Kim Green
C – Amy Parmenter
WD – Jamie-Lee Price
GD – Kristiana Manu’a
GK – Sam Poolman
Bench: Kiera Austin, Matilda McDonell, Maddie Hay
Changes: Q2: WA Austin; Q3: C Green; Q4 GD McDonell, GK Manu’a
Thwaites 30/35 (86%)
Philip 31/38 (82%)
Bassett 35/39 (90%)
Harten 10/11 (91%)
Goal Assists: Watson (Vixens) – 29, Moloney (Vixens) – 22
Intercepts: Mannix (Vixens) – 5
Deflections: Harten (Giants) – 6, Moloney (Vixens) – 5
Simone McKinnis, Melbourne Vixens Coach
On the game
“We won all four quarters and I think that was important after our slow start last week. It was obviously a focus that we wanted to get off to a good start and particularly against Giants, we want to get off to a good start, so I’m rapt to get a point for each quarter.”
On the strength of the performance across the court
“I think it was quite scrappy. The result was fantastic and everything and winning four quarters, but I still think there were elements where it was quite scrappy and our ability to score off every gained ball I think was down well below 50%. I might sound harsh, but there is a fair bit that I’d want to be tidying up on, just some of the hands and footwork and that sort of thing. So I think there’s lots to work on but I can’t question…I thought it was great work ethic and work rate right across the game which was good.”
On the full-court defence of the Vixens
“And that was something we thought we needed to be better on from last week was that full court defence and I thought that they did a great job.”
On Tegan Phillip’s performance
“I think she opened it up, particularly in the second half. Giants are always a tough outfit to play against and her ability to use her speed and change of pace and everything is important for us.”
And she was okay with that ankle?
“Yeah she was. It’s just that moment when it takes a little while for the little sting to go out. But yeah she was fine.”
On Dehaney’s performance in the last quarters
“Kadie-Ann’s been outstanding in the preseason. And she’s had her exposure against Caitlin Bassett before, so I think it’s just good for her to get out there and see what it feels like as well.”
On Kim Green and her battle with Renae Ingles
“I think that was great and I said before the game to Renae, it’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to play on her in her 200th and Renae was like, “Yeah, I would have played in quite a few of those 200 games of her career”. So I think that was fantastic. And it’s an incredible achievement for Kim and the way she goes about her business is great to see. And you love to be part of a game like that and seeing an athlete like that out there doing what they do.”
– Cara Gledhill