The Melbourne Vixens had an impressive turnaround from an 11-goal loss to the Collingwood Magpies last weekend, putting on a show to take the game and a place in next week’s preliminary final. The Magpies lacked the momentum and defensive intensity that saw them make it into the final four and were unable to make inroads after a huge first quarter from the Vixens.
The Magpies were able to get an immediate turnover from the Vixens’ first centre pass, but in what was to become a trend for the game, lost the ball almost immediately in transition. The attacking flair that saw them take the win against the Vixens last weekend was missing from their game and they struggled to move the ball into Nelson with the same consistency.
The immediate issue for the Magpies was on their centre pass. Renae Ingles and Jo Weston created an effective block on Kimiora Poi who was frequently unable to break through within two seconds, forcing Ash Brazill to look for other options. With Nat Medhurst well up court and ready to receive the ball for the second phase, there was little other option but for the Pies to go backwards. This left Weston and Ingles with plenty of time to set up and cover the ball to the Magpies feeders on the circle edge.
The misfeeds came thick and fast for the Magpies who were struggling with the defensive pressure. Emily Mannix was prowling around the circle and Shimona Nelson was struggling to move off the hold and take the ball cleanly. The balls that had been sailing into her from the transverse line just a week prior were being cut off or going straight over the sideline. Weston was having a significant influence on Nat Medhurst, who looked out of sorts throughout the game and recorded just one goal and two goal assists for the quarter. The Vixens went out to a 7-2 lead early and the Magpies quickly called a timeout to try and reset.
The timeout had little effect. The attacking structure that had driven the Magpies into finals contention was simply not there. The hands over pressure from the Vixens was paying dividends and Ingles was having a huge influence on Poi. At one point, Medhurst was free driving along the baseline with Weston called for contact outside of the circle but wasn’t sighted and Poi opted for a riskier pass over the hands of Mannix.
Meanwhile, Tegan Philip was having the game of her life, shooting at perfect accuracy from everywhere and finishing the quarter on the same number of goals as Caitlin Thwaites. The Vixens went into the first break up by an impressive 11 goals, giving them their highest first quarter score of the season and relegating the Magpies to their lowest.
To the relief of Magpies fans, the Magpies found more of a spark in the second quarter; Medhurst shot accurately from range, but they weren’t upsetting the Vixens enough in attack. When Mentor managed a gain after the first four minutes of the quarter, it was lost in transition through court.
The Vixens had clearly also been trained to not put the ball in the air anywhere near Brazill. Kate Moloney was breaking around the three foot mark with impeccable footwork and the cross court balls that Brazill had been eating for breakfast just seven days earlier were almost completely taken out of the Vixens’ game.
Brazill, who is still relatively new to feeding at this level seems to do it best from the pocket – last week saw her take some stunning aerial balls before delivering them into Nelson but was simply unable to find the same fluidity or space. A big part of this was the running race she was being forced into with Moloney who simply gave her no room to move. Since taking up the centre bib, Brazill has always managed at least two gains per game, but Moloney kept her busy enough to quell her defensively and she finished the game with several deflections, but no gains.
Medhurst was struggling against some intense physicality from Weston. It surfaced after the game that she had sustained cracked ribs in the game a week earlier, which makes some of her uncharacteristic turnovers this game more understandable. While Medhurst had run circles around the Vixens’ defence last weekend, Weston was up to the challenge and the Magpies looked lost in attack as a result.
Critically, the Magpies were playing the ball around more in attack than they had been in the first quarter and this helped them go goal for goal with the Vixens for much of the quarter. The Vixens went into the halftime break up by 15 goals with the Magpies managing just 19 goals for the half.
The Magpies started the third quarter the same way they had started the first, winning ball off a Vixens centre pass but losing it in transition. Mentor was warming into the game and the third quarter was when she began to read the ball in. picking up two gains. The Vixens shooting line who had a total of two turnovers between them at halftime felt the pressure and turned over the ball four times in the third quarter.
The Magpies knew they couldn’t come back at this point and were willing to let the ball go into Nelson earlier as a result. Brazill, who until three-quarter time had just five assists piled on nine in the final quarter and was driving into the pocket to take the long balls and throw them up to Nelson. When her teammates began to sight this, she was lethal on the feed in. One was left wondering what would have happened had she been able to find this space earlier..
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis without a single bonus point to worry about made the rare move of giving the bench a run, bringing on Mwai Kumwenda at goal shooter with seven minutes to go and later rookie Lara Dunkley at centre. Dunkley had an immediate impact, coming on and giving Brazill a few hard knocks to let her know she was there. The Vixens stormed home to take the game by 13 goals.
The Magpies who have had some injuries at key times in the season will be disappointed in this game. After taking a huge win against the Vixens just a week ago, they never found the same intensity that saw them through to the finals and were beaten all over the court. Interestingly, the Magpies actually won the last half, but the Vixens never looked like relinquishing the lead. An 11-goal lead after one quarter was simply too much for the Magpies.
The Pies will look to rebuild for next year off the back of what has been a stunning run to finals. The shuffle in the midcourt has had a huge impact for them and it will be interesting to say how this carries through into next season.
The Vixens face a tough challenge up against the New South Wales Swifts to make the grand final. Whatever happened in training for them throughout the week clearly worked with their attacking line absolutely firing and their defenders not giving an inch.
Melbourne Vixens 62 beat Collingwood Magpies 49
(20-9, 14-10, 12-14, 16-16)
MVP: Kate Moloney (Vixens)
Caitlin Thwaites 29/33 87.9%
Tegan Philip 29/36 80.6%
Mwai Kumwenda 4/5 80%
Melbourne Vixens 62/74 83.8%
Shimona Nelson 42/46 91.3%
Nat Medhurst 7/9 77.8%
Gabi Sinclair 0/1 0%
Collingwood Magpies 49/56 87.5%
Emily Mannix – 5 (4 intercepts, 1 deflection with a gain)
Jo Weston – 3 (2 intercepts, 1 deflection with a gain)
Geva Mentor – (2 intercepts, 1 rebound)
Liz Watson 22, Kate Moloney 18, Nat Medhurst 14, Ash Brazill 14
GS Caitlin Thwaites
GA Tegan Philip
WA Liz Watson
C Kate Moloney
WD Renae Ingles
GD Jo Weston
GK Emily Mannix
Q4: GS Mwai Kumwenda, C Lara Dunkley
GS Shimona Nelson
GA Nat Medhurst
WA Kimiora Poi
C Ash Brazill
WD Kim Ravaillion
GD April Brandley
GK Geva Mentor
Q3: WD Mel Bragg
Q4: WD Kim Ravaillion, GA Gabrielle Sinclair, GD Matilda Garrett
What they said
On the Vixens domination and the feeling that it was all over by halftime
“Oh, we still gave ourselves a chance at halftime to be honest with you and it was only what, five or six turnovers and you’re back in the match. But you can’t give a team like the Vixens a lead like that at quarter time and then expect to be chasing the whole time and find some momentum. No, we weren’t able to get the momentum back off them at any point during the game. They hit us hard early and we weren’t able to execute what we wanted to execute in the first quarter.
“They really shut down our options in attack and then defensively we attempted to try and control the mid third again but I thought they took over and they really controlled that area of the court so credit to the performance that they put out there today. But to our girls, we were very proud of the way they kept on fighting.
“We were 11 down at quarter-time and lost by 13 so I think that’s how much our club and our team has grown from the first year until now. You know, to be able to still give yourself a chance at halftime rather than to really throw the towel in. It was a great effort from them to stay with it and keep on persisting but they just couldn’t get the momentum off the Vixens today. They were just too good.”
On the Vixens’ momentum
“Look the girls still had the belief. Because we weren’t playing the brand of netball that we played in those three weeks beforehand so we still had the belief and the faith that we could get that back – our momentum and our flow back. But like I said, credit to the defensive end of the Vixens to be able to shut us down in attack.”
On the season as a whole – do you look on today as amazing that you got this far or disappointment that you couldn’t go further?
“Look it’s a real positive that we made it this far from my perspective and the girls’ perspective. Disappointing today – we weren’t here just to make up the numbers. So I thought we could have really challenged. But to put things into perspective and the year that we’ve had losing the Browne sisters and Rob and his mum the past months, so it has been a tough road for us. So from a club perspective, we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved. It was disappointing that it finished this way though.”
On today’s performance
“We lifted our defensive pressure all over the court and just get that movement and being able to read it well in attack. But it’s just hitting that court with fire and purpose and intensity and I thought we did that really well. Bottom line is we started the week, we’re in finals and we’re going for it. And I thought we did it really well.”
Were you always confident they could do that?
“No certainly last week was tough, but when I woke up on the Monday I was excited. There is a way and it’s there and we’re going to do it and I felt that all week and I knew before the game this morning that they were going to go out and just give it everything they’ve got and it’s going to be good.”
Connection in attack
“Yep, we worked hard on that this week.”
On the defence on the centre pass and whether this was a focus
“No, it was general defence on the wing attack and goal attack because they just moved the ball too easily last week. That defence isn’t just on the centre pass. It’s all over the court and that’s pressure.”
On next week and the fact they haven’t beaten the Swifts this season
“Of course. That’s what we’ve said right from the start. Finals: it’s quite irrelevant. I just think it’s a fantastic challenge and we’d love nothing better than to go up to Sydney and give it a real good shake.”
On Jo’s injury during an impressive intercept
“She’s okay. I didn’t see what she did. There was just a bit of tightness of breath and then she regained her composure.”
Focus for this week
“To be honest, we’ll go back and talk about that. We’ll pull out what we need to from this – the good and the not so good because there’s still areas that we want to improve on. But then we’ve got to turn to Swifts and really have a look at the two games we played and the recent game and come up with our game heading into next weekend. It’ll be a bit of a process. We’ll enjoy this first.”
What will it take to knock off the Lightning?
I’m not even thinking about Lightning.