2021 has been a unique season for the Melbourne Vixens.
With retirements and injuries souring the title defence pre-season, it’s been a year where young players have received opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
This week, it was one of the veteran heads of the sides stepping up in her team’s time of need.
Co-captain Liz Watson underwent foot surgery in March, ruling her off the court for the season. While she’s been a constant voice on the sidelines for the Vixens, this week she was offered extra responsibility.
Assistants Sharelle McMahon and Di Honey were left behind as the Vixens packed up and left for South Australia on short notice.
Speaking post-game, Watson said the coaches will still communicate with the team remotely, as the future of the season remains uncertain.
“They are still involved obviously with the team through all of our meetings and communication with the girls, so I’m their replacement on the bench with Simone,” she said.
“It was a bit stressful at times! Simone asked me this morning ‘do you want to sit next to me on the bench and run through how the coaches see the game?’ It was a really good experience.
“A lot of work goes on, you’ve got to be quick to read what’s happening, get the messages across to the girls and influence the outcome.”
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McKinnis and Watson showed faith in their players early, making no substitutions in the first half.
The connection between the mid court and the shooters was noticeably stronger than previous weeks, centre and fellow captain Kate Moloney putting in strong work early.
Kaylia Stanton made a few errors early, with passes and feeds missing their mark, but grew in confidence as the second quarter drew on.
Watson praised the players for their early performances.
“I thought Hannah [Mundy] had a really good game in wing attack, she was taking drives and being dominant against one of the best wing defences in the comp as well. There are little positives like that that we can see across the game.
“I thought Emily [Mannix] had another really good performance as well, having missed a few games in the season too. There are little things we’ve got to be proud of and take as positives going forward.
“The negatives from this game are probably not being able to put out four quarters, and letting it slip in the last quarter. The numbers compared to Magpies were very close across the board, it was just that last little bit so that was disappointing in that aspect.”
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