The Melbourne Vixens, 2014 Champions. (Photo: Netball Victoria)

2014 was the year that it all came together for the Melbourne Vixens, after two years of heartbreak. Bianca Chatfield looks back on a special Grand Final win.

After two consecutive finals heartbreak, a Grand Final loss in 2012 and a loss in the preliminary final in 2013, 2014 was the year that the stars aligned when the Melbourne Vixens came home with the ultimate success. Premiership Captain Bianca Chatfield looks back on the Grand Final win.

It was a strong Vixens side, led by Chatfield and sporting the likes of Madi Browne, Cath Cox and Geva Mentor. They were alongside emerging talent, Kate Moloney, Liz Watson and Jo Weston all apart of the premiership side.

Chatfield spoke to The Inner Sanctum about the Melbourne Vixens’ 2014 Premiership win and what it meant to the Vixens side.

The first step for the Vixens was to get the all important home Grand Final and a week off, which was exactly what they did.

“It seems so long ago, I think for me being apart of the Melbourne Vixens as well as the Melbourne Phoenix, we had been fortunate many times to win that first semi final and get a home Grand Final,” Chatfield told The Inner Sanctum.

“That was the situation and we kind of fluked it towards the end. In Round 14 we lost by one to Steel because we didn’t play well, and the Swifts had a loss as well which meant we went through to that semi final and got a home game.

“Then we always had this feeling that if we could secure that home Grand Final then that would be such a benefit to winning the whole thing.

“I think already that had given us so much confidence to win and go through, have the week off. As a more experienced player you certainly got used to what that week off looked like and how you’d treat it going into the Grand Final and use it to your advantage.

“We had some serious hard training sessions in that two weeks too to make sure we were ready to go. We ended up coming up against the Firebirds, and was not too dissimilar to how Fever are at the moment.

“The tall shooter and Romelda [Aiken] was almost unstoppable, and trying to figure out ways to stop her.”

The Grand Final also marked the final game for netball legend Catherine Cox, but going into the game the Vixens didn’t make a big deal of it.

“I think because Coxy hadn’t been at the Vixens for a long period time and she played such a mentoring role, she got bits and pieces of time out on court but she was such a mentor to the other shooters,” Chatfield said.

“We didn’t make a big deal of it before the game. Throughout the Diamonds as well we had a habit of never making too big a deal of those kinds of milestones that were happening on the periphery, of the team because the games the most important thing.

“I do really remember that last quarter where she came on – she’d quite often done it for us that season – come on and had an impact once Tegan [Philip] or Karyn [Bailey] once they’d play their role and it really changed up for us.

“I remember seeing her tearing up down the other end of the court as we got closer and closer to winning that game, I was just like ‘hang in there, we’ve got a little while to go.'”

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The Firebirds were hot on the tails of the Vixens for most of the first three quarters of the match, but for Chatfield and her side it was all about adding the defensive pressure.

“One significant thing for us and that we’d learnt the times that the Vixens played well [was] we needed to be the best defensive team in the league, and I’m pretty sure we were that year.

“Geva [Mentor] and I would set little goals at that stage. Things have changed with [Jhaniele] Fowler and how many she’d shoot, but you just had to have this game of persistence that often was the first three quarters.

“You’d just have to keep that pressure on, and by the last quarter that’s when the interception would come your way and the loose ball and that’s when they’d start to get tired.

“So that was our plan of attack of the whole game. Knowing we were with them for three quarters, all of our hard work should have payed off if we did that hard work.

“That’s how it just panned out. I remember Romelda [Aiken] got a contact under the post against me just because of her frustration in that last quarter, and the pressure and the amount of passes they had to take getting into her. You could just tell [in] those moments like that they had lapses of concentration and we made the most of them.

“That was such a good learning time for the Firebirds because they had lost that one, but it probably drove them into having that extra experience come their dynasty and their run of winning and what they did after that year.”

That contact under the post from Romelda Aiken was the moment that Chatfield knew that the Vixens were going to win the game.

Vixens crowned 2014 Premiers - Netball VIC
The Vixens with the 2014 Premiership. (Photo: Netball Victoria)

“I think it was the moment, I don’t even know what part of the last quarter but there was a moment where Romelda gets contact under the post and she kind of elbowed me out of the way in frustration,” Chatfield explained.

“It was that moment when we got a turnover and scored off their centre pass then our centre pass, then really just put us that next step forward. Not that we were unstoppable from that moment, we just had that scoreboard relief.”

What made that 2014 Premiership special for Chatfield was how it marked the changing of the guard of the Melbourne Vixens. The likes of Jo Weston, Kate Moloney and Liz Watson were now leaders of the club.

“I think 2012 was a really disappointing year, we certainly weren’t the best team that year,” she said.

“I think we fluked our way into the Grand Final and we still could have won it – but we didn’t – and we didn’t play well enough to win it.

“I think it was a whole new team in 2014, and a real changing of the guard from oldies like me to the young girls now who are leading the club. So it was kind of that transition time, and I think why it was so important and why it meant so much because it’s that connection now that we always have with this younger group of girls.

“We got to sit back and watch them win last year and be super proud of how they’ve taken over the club and the culture that they’ve created and continued.

“That’s their first experience at it, and they had to work super hard to get another one since that moment in 2014.”

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