Another loss off the back of a dismal third quarter has relegated the Melbourne Vixens to the bottom of the Super Netball ladder for good.
After breaking the duck with a win against the Sunshine Coast Lightning which now seems like a lifetime ago, it was the fifth loss straight for the reigning premiers.
The early signs against the Thunderbirds were good. Emily Mannix had the better of the shooters, Jo Weston looked lively in her milestone appearance and the shooting combination were operating with a clear plan.
Weston was pushing up the court, playing an aggressive game in her traditional goal defence post. She took three centre pass receives, had two gains, two deflections and an intercept.
Working well with her captain Kate Moloney, it looked like her 100th was going to be a good one.
While the Vixens trailed 15-13 at the first break, it felt as though a back and forth contest was on the cards.
Coming into the second term, substitutions were made by coach Simone McKinnis as usual. Allie Smith found herself briefly in centre, only spending two minutes on court not looking at her best.
Hannah Mundy was quickly moved into centre after her, but also couldn’t make it work. While she had seven feeds, she couldn’t register a single gain and caused four turnovers.
With Moloney working well with Mundy as her wing attack and with Weston pushing up, there was almost a sense of the coach fixing what wasn’t broken. This was one game where the line-up on court could have stayed steady until required.
“We had a reasonable start to the game, but [once] again there were too many errors; too many costly errors,” McKinnis told media post-game.
“You’re not going to win games when you’re giving the ball back to your opposition.
“Defensively, particularly in the first half I thought we got some great ball. I think our scoring off gained ball was pretty low… it was down in the 40 per cents. We just need to be better off scoring off our own opportunities and our centre passes.”
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The third quarter saw a few more changes made on court, one good and one bad.
Smith was persisted with in centre, and found her feet once again. She had eight feeds, three goal assists, a gain, an intercept and a deflection for the quarter.
Another unfortunate symptom of the now condensed fixture, Mannix made way for Kadie-Ann Dehaney despite being close to the best player on court in the first half.
The combination between her and Weston that had been working so strongly was broken, and Thunderbirds goal shooter Lenize Potgieter took advantage and converted 100% of her 10 shots for the term.
Similarly down the other end, Ruby Barkmeyer replaced Kaylia Stanton in goal attack. While she was strong individually, the partnership between Stanton and Mwai Kumwenda that was keeping star Thunderbirds goal keeper Shamera Sterling at bay was split up, letting her play her natural game and get off the chain.
With the fifth loss straight and the Queensland Firebirds awaiting on Wednesday, McKinnis spoke of what the general downfalls have been of the Vixens season.
“I think the results give the off season a spark because you’ll have players that are desperately wanting to make amends for a disappointing season, who won’t wanting to be waiting for an off-season,” she said.
“It’s maintaining that workrate that’s required. The change of direction, the offer, the re-offer, that dropped off. You have to be able to do the work for the full 60 minutes which we weren’t prepared to do.”
The question now remains on how McKinnis approaches the final game of the year.
With nothing left to play for other than pride and developing the young players, will the likes of Smith, Mundy and Barkmeyer be given the keys to the castle and play the full 60 minutes?
Contracts are set to expire come the end of the season on August 28, and with plenty of player movement likely, the Vixens still need to answer who the players of the future are and who needs to find a new home.
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