Are the Melbourne Vixens the real deal?
Premiership favourites before the season, the Vixens left a few questions unanswered in a 71-60 Round 8 Suncorp Super Netball victory over the winless Queensland Firebirds.
The Firebirds jumped the visiting side in the opening half, leading by as many as seven goals as the new goaling combination of Gretel Tippett (29 goals from 31 attempts) and South African Lenize Potgieter (31 from 34) began to find its feet.
The towering pair looked far more in sync after their first-up struggles last week, scoring a combined 35 goals in the first half to put the Firebirds in with a great chance of ending their longest losing streak in 15 seasons.
At the other end Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe were in everything defensively for the home side in the second quarter, ripping in three intercepts as an 18-17 quarter-time lead quickly became a seven-goal advantage.
The Vixens looked listless in defence, allowing the Firebirds far too much space and easy avenues to goal, but some signs of life late in the second quarter allowed them narrow the gap to three goals at half-time.
Whatever what said in the Vixens’ change rooms during the break clearly worked, with the team that emerged back onto court immediately looking dangerous at both ends.
Goal keeper Emily Mannix took matters into her own hands to spark her team, producing five gains for the quarter to help the Vixens not only close the gap, but push ahead themselves.
Goal defence Jo Weston and wing defence Renae Ingles also got involved, with Tippett held to just three goals for the quarter.
Meanwhile, Vixens goal attack Tegan Philip was raining goals from everywhere, adding 12 of her 28 goals in the third quarter, while Nissan MVP Caitlin Thwaites (43 from 47) shot seven of her own to surge clear 51-44 with one quarter remaining.
From there the Vixens were all but unstoppable, pouring in 20 goals to 16 in the final quarter to grab a second bonus point and wrap up an important 11-goal win.
The result sees them sitting just two points behind the second-placed Sunshine Coast Lightning, while it’s back to the drawing board again for the Firebirds, who face the Magpies in Round 9.
Q1: Firebirds 18 v Vixens 17
Q2: Firebirds 17 v Vixens 15
Q3: Firebirds 9 v Vixens 19
Q4: Firebirds 16 v Vixens 20
Suncorp Super Netball Premiership Points
Firebirds – 2
Vixens – 6
Nissan Player of The Match – Caitlin Thwaites (Vixens)
Firebirds shooting statistics – 60/65 (92.3%)
Lenize Potgieter – 31/34 (91.2%)
Gretel Tippett – 29/31 (93.5%)
Vixens shooting statistics – 71/80 (88.8%)
Caitlin Thwaites – 43/37 (91.5%)
Tegan Philip – 28/33 (84.8%)
Firbirds starting seven: GS – Lenize Potgieter, GA – Gretel Tippett, WA – Caitlyn Nevins, C – Jemma Mi Mi, WD – Gabi Simpson, GD – Kim Jenner, GK – Tara Hinchliffe
Vixens starting seven: GS – Caitlin Thwaites, GA – Tegan Philip, WA – Liz Watson, C – Kate Moloney, WD – Renae Ingles, GD – Jo Weston, GK – Emily Mannix
China International Women’s Match Race
photo Getty Images