IF Sunday is to be the last time Bianca Chatfield graces an ANZ Championship court in front of her home crowd, her Melbourne Vixens teammates want to make sure it’s a memorable occasion.
And what better stage for the Melbourne and Victorian public to farewell Chatfield than another showdown against the Vixens’ traditional rivals the NSW Swifts at Margaret Court Arena.
Aside from the emotion surrounding Chatfield, who is retiring at the end of the season, it’s a must-win clash for the Vixens if they want to keep their Australian Conference Finals hopes alive. The Vixens finish their regular season with a trip to Auckland to take on the SKYCITY Mystics.
Teammate Geva Mentor said nothing less than a win against the Swifts would do justice to Chatfield’s remarkable career.
While Chatfield’s retirement has been known for a month, Mentor said that and her final home court appearance hasn’t been a focus leading into this must-win clash with the in-form Swifts, who sit three points ahead of the Vixens in third spot on the Australian Conference ladder.
“We know it’s going to happen but we’re almost shoveling it under the rug and not thinking about it,” Mentor said about Chatfield’s impending departure.
“The emotion won’t set in until after game on the weekend. We know that we’ve still got a job to do and it will be great to finish off with a bang in front of our home crowd for Bianca.
“But at the end of the day we still have a job to do and Bianca is ever the professional and that’s her focus. She’s not focusing on it being her last game on Aussie soil.
“It’s about getting the job done and every person in the team - and in Victoria - hopes that we finish the way we should do for her and respect her career.”
Having partnered Chatfield in the Vixens’ defensive end for the past five seasons, Mentor said it will be a sad moment when she hangs up her dress.
With 109 games to her name, Chatfield has made the second most ANZ Championship appearances by an Australian-based player – only Natalie Medhurst (112) has currently played more matches – and captained the Vixens in every season of their existence.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to play with her,” Mentor said. “She’s a great lady on and off the court as well.
“Her leadership has been by far and away one of the best that I’ve been under and she’s definitely going to leave a big gap when she departs but I wish her all the best.
“When I played at the Adelaide Thunderbirds she was always one of those defenders that our attackers used to fear just because she was non-stop and hassled them and her ability to win the ball.
To finally come to Melbourne Vixens and be able to partner up with her and build what I think is a really good partnership over the years, we’ve really strived as a unit to work together. She’s definitely left her legacy on netball not only at the Vixens and in Victoria but around Australia as well.”
The Vixens host the Swifts for the Sargeant-McKinnis Cup on Sunday, May 24 at Margaret Court Arena from 2.18pm, local time. Catch all the action live on FOX Sports 4 and SKY Sport NZ 1.