Melbourne Vixens broke through for its first victory of the Suncorp Super Netball Season with a thrilling 66-64 win over the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane.
Debuting Vixen Rahni Samason was the star of the game, hitting the winning Super Shot after time had expired off the back of a contact penalty from Firebird Rudy Ellis.
Samason starred throughout the game, with eight Super Shots (from ten attempts) and 19 goals without a miss, jumping in from training partner to starter as she replaced the injured Emily Mannix.
She formed a strong partnership with Mwai Kumwenda in the circle for the Vixens, both players crucial in helping their side storm to a victory.
“Simone [McKinnis, Vixens coach] let the players know they were heading on a plane about 11am on Wednesday. I got the call a little bit later.
“I didn’t find out I was actually playing until the meeting beforehand today.
“The confidence from Simone, Sharelle [McMahon, assistant coach and former Diamond] and all these girls, MJ [Kumwenda] in the circle especially, and Kate Moloney and her leadership, I think that helped lift me up as well, because I knew they had my back.
After the game, Samason explained what was running through her head as she lined up to take a fairytale game-winning shot.
“I tried to think as little as possible,” she said.
“I think that if I think about it, I tend to get a bit nervous and it throws everything off.
“I just blanked my mind, thinking it was just a normal training session… and went through my normal rhythm.”
The Firebirds jumped out to an early lead, but the Vixens came back to tie the game. With less than a minute left to play, the Firebirds were flying down the court, before Kadie-Ann Dehaney saved the Vixens with a brilliant intercept to shut down the Firebirds attack and propel the ball forward for what would be the game-winning shot.
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After a contact was called on the Firebirds’ Ellis, Samason calmly stepped up after the clock had run out, and completed the comeback victory.
Vixens Goaler Kumwenda was glowing in her praise of Samason’s performance after the game.
“I’m proud of her,” Kumwenda said.
“Coming up and having that opportunity, having a game like that today… I’m proud to see her bring that energy to the team.”
Samason has come up through the Victoria Netball pathway, playing juniors, then representative and state teams, before becoming a training partner with the Vixens.
Samason was a stand out on debut and there were suggestions that she should be snapped up as a player of the future for an international team.
Her father comes from the Cook Islands, and has a New Zealand passport, but considers himself an Australian (and never cheers for the All Blacks).
As for any indication about Samason’s preference – she’s focused on simply playing well and contributing to the Vixens.
“As a training partner, we’re here for the team, and trying to help the team in any way,” she said.
“Obviously with Em [Mannix] being injured, I’ve come in and I’ve tried to help out. When she comes back, I assume I’ll go back to the training squad, but I don’t think my role changes all that much.
“I’m still here to lift the intensity of training. And bring the best out of the girls, the only difference is that I won’t be out on the court with them come game time.
“As a training partner, you expect that, and you hope that next season looks a little different.”
Samason said her father used to quote inspirational messages to her on the way to training.
Her favourite motivational quote to prepare her for the big moment?
“Diamonds are made under pressure.”
All quotes obtained courtesy of The Goal Circle Podcast
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