Magpies Netball defeated their cross-town rivals the Melbourne Vixens for the first time in Suncorp Super Netball, 55–52, to keep their finals hopes alive and honour Kelsey Browne’s 50th game in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,647 at Melbourne Arena on Monday.
The Magpies took control early in the Melbourne derby, with shooter Shimona Nelson taking the aerial balls while Nat Medhurst split the defenders with her baseline drives. Emily Mannix and Jo Weston’s tactics to double-team Nelson helped the Vixens win plenty of ball but the team’s nine turnovers proved costly as the Magpies led by five goals early.
The Vixens fired after the first timeout with a quick three goals, yet the defensive pressure from the Magpies was stifling. April Brandley had a huge impact in defence with an intercept and provided a solid backup for the loose passes in the Magpies midcourt. The Vixens began to settle until the Magpies called a timeout with two minutes remaining.
The Vixens came out of the break with tight defence, yet the Magpies attack worked tirelessly to amend their mistakes while their defence refused to release their strangle hold on the quarter and pushed their lead to seven goals in the final minutes.
The Magpies held the Vixens to just eight goals for the quarter, the lowest quarter score of any team this season.
The Vixens mounted a thrilling comeback in the second quarter and levelled the scores before the Magpies regained control and maintained a three-goal lead heading into half-time.
The second quarter was a defensive game from each team with both wing defenders making an impact, as Renae Ingles took an intercept and two deflections, while Ash Brazill had a pickup and scrapped for loose balls.
Brandley was a constant presence in defence and forced many Vixen turnovers yet was outfoxed by her opponents as Caitlin Thwaites outmuscled Geva Mentor and controlled her aerial takes, and their circle movement prevented the defenders from settling into the quarter.
The Magpies were shaky in attack after their timeout where Nelson had coach-killer errors at crucial times. She was often off-balance and struggling to take the ball cleanly. Despite the mishaps, Nelson shook off the nerves and backed herself as Medhurst and Browne continued to feed her with confidence and controlled the quarter as the clock wound down.
The third quarter was tightly contested and took until the final minutes for the Vixens to win momentum and the quarter.
Ingles played outstandingly with an early intercept and another two gains from deflections in the final minutes to bookend an impeccable quarter.
Both teams made plenty of changes, with Thwaites forced off through injury for Ine-Mari Venter who held up the shooting end until Thwaites re-entered minutes later.
Goal keeper Kadie-Ann Dehaney entered towards the end of the quarter to give the Magpies something to think about – even though she didn’t win ball, the change unravelled the Magpies’ momentum and helped Ingles take those late gains.
The Magpies also brought on New Zealander Kimiora Poi whose speed and energy were unmatched, but her feeds were not the perfect lob that Nelson needed and after five minutes she was subbed off again for Kim Ravaillion.
The Magpies entered the final quarter with a small advantage, 39 – 41, and held onto their lead and their nerve to push forward in the final quarter and finish off their dominant match with a full court display of confidence, speed and precision.
Shimona Nelson took flight in the final term to shoot 12/13 and collect her own rebound. In response, there were growing frustrations in the Vixen’s defence as some unlucky calls went against them, most notably where Browne fell offside at the transverse line to scrap up a loose ball but was saved by the whistle as Weston was called for contact.
Mentor rose to the occasion in taking an intercept, deflection and rebound to return possession to her side, while her defensive pressure with Brandley had the Vixens goalers coming dangerously close to held balls as they looked to the post.
Calling a timeout to their favour, the Magpies hit their straps while tactically slowing the play to push the lead out to three goals, win their first ever match against their cross-town rivals and keep their finals hopes alive.
FINAL SCORE: MAGPIES 55 NETBALL def. MELBOURNE VIXENS 52.
(15–8, 12–16, 14–15, 14–13)
Player of the match: Renae Ingles
Caitlin Thwaites 31/32 97%
Tegan Philip 19/24 79%
Melbourne Vixens 52/59 88%
Shimona Nelson 48/54 89%
Nat Medhurst 7/9 78%
Magpies Netball 55/63 87%
Geva Mentor (Magpies) 4
Renae Ingles (Vixens) 2
Emily Mannix (Vixens) 2
April Brandley (Magpies) 2
Renae Ingles (Vixens) 5
Kelsey Browne (Magpies) 2
Geva Mentor (Magpies) 8
Renae Ingles (Vixens) 7
Emily Mannix (Vixens) 3
April Brandley (Magpies) 3
Liz Watson (Vixens) 34
Kelsey Browne (Magpies) 33
Kate Moloney (Vixens) 28
Nat Medhurst (Magpies) 28
Kelsey Browne (Magpies) 28
Liz Watson (Vixens) 22
Nat Medhurst (Magpies) 18
Kate Moloney (Vixens) 15
Starting line ups
GS Caitlin Thwaites
GA Tegan Philip
WA Liz Watson
C Kate Moloney
WD Renae Ingles
GD Jo Weston
GK Emily Mannix
Changes: Q1 WA Kate Moloney, C Liz Watson
Q3 WA Liz Watson, C Kate Moloney, GS Ine-Mari Venter, GS Caitlin Thwaites, GK Kadie-Ann Dehaney
Q4 GK Emily Mannix
GS Shimona Nelson
GA Natalie Medhurst
WA Kelsey Browne
C Kim Ravaillion
WD Ash Brazill
GD April Brandley
GK Geva Mentor
Changes: Q3 C Kimiora Poi, C Kim Ravaillion
Rob Wright, Magpies Netball Coach
Overall thoughts on the match in comparison to last week’s loss to the Swifts
I was pleased because after last week I thought Swifts look like it’s a training run for them and we were horrible in reality. So it was good to get a little less fancy and get back to just some hard work. And I thought we did that quite well and probably the most exciting thing – and the most disappointing thing – [is] you lead [by] seven and then you let them (Vixens) back in.
On which areas of the court were impressive
Probably both ends [stood up], we certainly won a whole lot of ball today, so that was pleasing … I felt like in attack we probably let the ball go a lot better today but that’s something that’s been lacking – we’ve been really trying to work on [it] throughout the week.
On Shimona Nelson’s performance
I thought she bounced back well because there was a couple of patches where she just lost her way a little bit but responded well and she just hopefully keeps getting better and better.
Importance of winning before playing Lightning next week
[It was] really important. Probably more so because of last week’s effort … So probably responding this week was a real key. [I] wasn’t sure what we were quite going to get but it was really important. But next week now becomes even more important because we want to back it up again. Unfortunately, we haven’t gone two weeks in a row where we’ve won, so we’ve been up and down so it’s a great opportunity to see if we can get a little momentum now.
Simone McKinnis, Melbourne Vixens Coach
Areas of the court that were lacking
I can’t question the defence. I thought that we got some great ball back and I just didn’t think we had the finish in that shooting circle that we needed.
On changing the midcourt
We we’re just getting caught on the body and caught up and not taking that drive and that’s been working very well for us – that change up in our training. So it’s changed things for a little while and then [we] worked it back again and it actually got back to the normal flow out in that midcourt area.
On Renae Ingles’ performance
She was outstanding. And just the desperation and the fight for the ball and that’s where the attack ends got to pay that back. They’ve got to pay that back with goals and we’re not at the moment, and that’s killing us in games like this.