The Melbourne Vixens put together a strong four quarters to see off competition minnows Adelaide Thunderbirds at Hisense Arena.
The Vixens have won their past five games in a row and look promising to move into the finals. The strength of their lineup was noted today with six players named in the Australian Diamonds.
The least experienced player for the Vixens in Kadie-Ann Dehaney stepped up in this game and was one of the best players on court.
The Thunderbirds were unable to gel with their combinations from the start and never looked like threatening the Melbourne outfit. Adelaide started with Nelson while Msomi started on the bench.
For the Vixens, Dehaney replaced Mannix who is still out with a finger injury. Dehaney started the game with a tip from a misplaced pass into Shimona Nelson but was unable to convert it into a turnover. The Thunderbirds stayed in touch for the first few minutes and were within a goal after five minutes.
A Liz Watson intercept in the Adelaide goal third saw the Vixens stun the Thunderbirds scoring three and then five goals to every Thunderbirds goal. Dehaney, who matched Nelson for elevation was making life very difficult for the young shooter. Dehaney starred with two intercepts and a deflection in the first quarter.
With both Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda on song and Liz Watson taking every second pass, the Vixens lead extended. The Thunderbirds took their first tactical timeout after losing a string of balls in their attacking third, replacing Chelsea Pitman with Bongiwe Msomi.
As Jo Weston and Dehaney began to read the play better, the Thunderbirds struggled to find Nelson. Hodges was on song with her shooting but was also struggling against Weston’s defence.
The midcourters were also struggling to feed their shooters. The Vixens defence were setting up an impenetrable zone. Thunderbirds midcourters, in their desperation, were throwing easy balls over the head of Nelson or misplacing them.
Given her high penalty count in last week’s game, Dehaney did well to come off the body and picked up several misplaced feeds and outjumped Nelson on several occasions to win an intercept or a turnover.
Defensively the Thunderbirds were making some inroads. In particular they were forcing the Vixens into side to side balls up the court the easy long ball into Kumwenda. The Thunderbirds defence when they did manage to turn over the ball though tended to have those wins lost further down the court, particularly in the goal third.
Renae Ingles and Dehaney were roaming for intercepts and stifled the feed into Nelson. The struggles saw a change, with Cat Tuivaiti entering the game in the second quarter. Tuivaiti had an almost immediate impact with stunning baseline drives and holding well against Dehaney.
Unfortunately, the feeders not turning to her soon enough – cross-court passes increased the chance of turnovers and Tuivaiti was free on a number of occasions under the post and wasn’t fed to. This hesitancy could have been due to the exceptional work done by the defensive unit of Weston and Dehaney.
Liz Watson’s work outside the circle was critical to the Vixens continuing to increase their lead. Even when she fumbled the ball on a couple of occasions she was able to instantly regain possession, often ending up on the ground after being contacted in the process. The Vixens went into halftime up by 17 goals.
The Thunderbirds opened the second half with a three and a-half minute goal drought while the Vixens scored six. Errors were creeping in for the Thunderbirds. To their credit, they responded in kind scoring the next four goals with Hodges in particular shooting very well under pressure.
Meanwhile, the Vixens were relatively easily moving through the court with textbook set plays down the middle of the court from Kate Moloney, to Tegan Philip, to Liz Watson on the edge of the circle and then into Kumwenda.
The defensive midcourt for the Thunderbirds were struggling to shut this down. The Vixens increased their lead to go into three-quarter time up by 22 goals. At the end of the third quarter, Samantha Gooden came on at GA for the Vixens replacing Philip.
The Thunderbirds coach moved Chelsea Pitman into GA for Hodges. Pitman missed a number of goals in warmup before taking the court and her role was obviously intended to be more of a feeding one.
Tuivaiti was gaining some ground on Dehaney holding well against her on the baseline. Yet the feeds still weren’t coming in when she was free – one would hope this can be improved on with more time training and playing together.
In their desperation to win ball back, the Thunderbirds defenders left Kumwenda in the circle allowing her a beautifully executed and completely undefended layup. An excellent block by Shimmin towards the end of the game gave some hope to the Thunderbirds.
Jo Weston had to come off with blood a minute from the end of the game and Jacqui Newton made her Suncorp Super Netball debut in GD.
The Vixens were lucky to maintain the bonus point in the final quarter with a three-goal lead the lowest of any quarter. Sam Gooden was shooting confidently from distance but lacked accuracy. But she shone in her volume of feeds into the circle. The Vixens finished the game 25 goals in front.
The Thunderbirds had some moments of brilliance with Tuivaiti coming on particularly well for Nelson. Shimmin had some important gains against Kumwenda, particularly towards the end of the game. They will face the Lightning at home next week while the Vixens host the Giants.
Melbourne Vixens 73 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 48
(21-9, 40-23, 57-35, 73-48)
Player of the Match: Liz Watson (Vixens)
Kumwenda 52/56 93%
Philip 17/20 85%
Gooden 4/7 57%
Nelson 7/9 78%
Hodges 13/15 87%
Tuivaiti 28/29 97%
Pitman 0/1 0%
Dehaney (Vixens) 5
Weston (Vixens) 2
Watson (Vixens) 44
Bryce (Thunderbirds) 29
Moloney (Vixens) 28
Starting line ups
Changes: Q3: Gooden GA; Q4: Newton GD (debut)
GD de Bruin
Changes: Q1: Msomi WA; Q2: Tuivaiti GS; Q3: Bryce WA, Petty C; Q4: Pitman GA
What they said
Simone McKinnis, Melbourne Vixens coach
On the game
“I think generally it was pretty consistent across the game from first quarter to fourth. I thought we worked really hard and took that scoring side and that’s what we really wanted to do, just build that for quarter effort.”
“But I think probably one of the most pleasing things for me there was times when there was loose ball and I loved that we pounced on everything – it was like we were attacking anything that was loose and that was a really good indicator of the intensity that they’ve brought into the game”
On building consistency
“It’s been really good since the bye, just building each week and each time you have a win and each time you work and fight your way through to good scenarios. And whether it be like the one-goal week like last week or the game today, I think we’ve just really built and the confidence and belief does come from that winning, but I think they’re enjoying what they’re doing and putting out on court now.”
Was there a focus on getting all four bonus points?
“Yes and no. You know what, I’m rapt that we did. But at the same time I think – and we earned them – we worked hard for them, but it was also really good to have Sammy out there playing and Jacqui the little cameo at the end. I’m rapt to have the eight points, except it’s not the focus.”
Were you happy with how Gooden came on?
“Yes, look it’s a big occasion for her. She’s been on court before, but it was nice and sort of leading into that third quarter break was just giving her a little bit of a touch of it before the break and then I think she pushed on well from there. She’s got some great ball skills and feeds into the circle which is good.”
On so many of the team being named in the Diamonds squad
“Yeah, I was over the moon for them and really thrilled for Netball Victoria and the Melbourne Vixens. I was really excited for the girls.”
Were you surprised about Renae Ingles?
“In some ways, yeah. But I’m absolutely over the moon for her and I love that she’s so excited about it and she’s doing fantastically well for us. I think she’s really added to our midcourt. And you can’t just open them up with that experience that Renae has. So I’m absolutely so excited for her and the rest of the girls. But we acknowledged that, it’s been the announcement this week. It just really has been a matter of yup, okay, it’s Vixens (now).”
Is this intensity going to be a big thing coming into finals
“It is every week. But it’s just a really good indicator of that focus and that concentration and hunger for it. And I guess it’s that sign of teamwork and doing it for each other, so it’s a good sign for us moving forward.”
On Dehaney’s performance as her best this season
“She did. I thought she did really well. And when they made the adjustment in the goal shooting position, she took awhile to adjust to it but by the end she got a couple of really good intercepts. I thought she worked really well. She’s fantastic.”
Report: Cara Gledhill
Photos: Kirsten Daley
Great report Cara and excellent interview with Simone at the end.
Excellent photos Kirsten too :)