(Pictures:Netball Victoria and Suncorp Super Netball/Websites) Graphic: Will Cuckson

Coming into the established Melbourne Vixens setup after being in a self-described expansion team environment, one of the newest Vixens, Kiera Austin has noticed their approach to team culture and success.

The winning culture and pedigree cannot be understated at the Melbourne Vixens, winning two championships in the nine-year history of the ANZ Championships (2009 and 2014) and one in the Suncorp Super Netball league in 2020.

The Vixens were formed in 2007 to enter the newly formed Trans-Tasman competition. They first competed in the ANZ Championships in 2008 as an amalgamation of the Melbourne Phoenix and Melbourne Kestrels. The Kestrels brought the up-and-coming talent and the Phoenix brought the experience and success.

Names such as Sharelle McMahon, Bianca Chatfield, Julie Corletto, and Kelsey Browne were included in these two teams, which had a horde of netball royalty included.

Of the current day Vixens, there are five Australian Diamonds representatives (Kate Moloney, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Emily Mannix, and Kiera Austin) and many more that have recently retired such as Caitlin Thwaites, Renae Ingles, Sharni Layton, and Tegan Philip.

Coming into the established Melbourne Vixens setup after being in a self-described expansion team environment, one of the newest Vixens, Kiera Austin has noticed their approach to team culture and success.

“It’s been great you know I’ve come from a team that hasn’t had like a history you know and our focus was building a story and a history,” Austin told The Inner Sanctum exclusively about the Vixens team ethos and history.

“Obviously the Vixens have been the Kestrels and Phoenix before and there is so much pride in where they have come from so seeing that and meeting past players, it’s been really exciting to kind of be part of that and to want to perform for those players that have been there before us.”

The history of the Melbourne Kestrels and Melbourne Phoenix has been something that is steeped in the culture of the Melbourne Vixens.

They used the merge of the two teams to assemble a ‘dream team’ featuring the best of both teams with the history of these clubs propelling the current squad.

Austin continues to speak about the professionalism that the club has and how that isn’t just an image but is ingrained in their culture, a professional team makes for a successful team at the Vixens.

“I think the clubs are very professional in how they do everything and I like how they do that, I’m a bit of a stickler for rules and structure and if someone’s going to tell me to wear a pair of socks then I will those socks,” she said.

“I don’t mind getting told to do something if that’s going to create a really professional image.”

Winning culture and learning from everything

It becomes clear when Austin speaks about the culture that they focus on winning, they all learn from losses and wins alike, and always strive to get better as a team.

“I do think they have a very great culture, a mindset very set on winning,” she said.

“When we do have games where we have won but we haven’t been overly thrilled with the consistency of our performance, that’s the main speaking point after the matches.

“We are not getting too carried away with the win, we focus on what we can do better. I really like that about the Vixens so I think it’s been a very good move for me, and the environment I’m in now really suits me.”

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Vixens culture is team culture

Austin speaks about the Vixens culture not being enforced by the coaches or captains but by the club as a whole and all players regardless of their standing in the game. Simone McKinnis and the co-captains down to the newest recruits and training partners buy into the goals of the club, knowing it has brought past success and will continue to bring Diamonds selections and premierships.

“I think every single girl in the team kind of contributes to that success,” she said.

“I see all the girls doing extra sessions here and there whether that be focusing on footwork or getting around the body to contest balls in the air.

“All of us shooters are there half an hour before court sessions to do different shooting cards and you know challenging ourselves that way.

“I think everyone holds themselves accountable which is what I love about the culture at Vixens, you don’t need someone telling them to do this or to do that but they are just good athletes that do everything.

“[They do] all the one-percenters off the court all the time so I don’t think it surprised me, I think now being in the environment I know why so many Diamonds have been [selected] from the Vixens. It’s just the one-percenters off the court that really make the difference.”

Super Netball Premiers, The Melbourne Vixens. Photo- supernetball.com.au

Kate Moloney and Liz Watson

Austin also attributes the driving of the culture to the two co-captains, Kate Moloney and Liz Watson. Having led the Vixens to premiership success in 2020 and represented the Diamonds, these two co-captains know what it takes to get the ultimate success.

Both Moloney and Watson are multiple Sharelle McMahon medalists (Vixens Most Valuable Player) as well as Watson is a Liz Ellis Award winner, the winner of the highest accolade in Australian netball.

Moloney is in her tenth season at the club and her role has been ushering her younger teammates through the door.

Alongside her is Watson in her ninth season at the club and will be a driving force for the club going forward considering she should still have many more years in the game.

“I think they really compliment each other in terms of people off the court and on the court,” Austin said.

“Kate’s quite a workhorse and loves running, you know she could run for days, and Liz is obviously really smart with how she moves.

“They balance each other on the court really well and off the court as captains they are just like your friends, you know obviously a captain is someone more than you but they are definitely someone you feel comfortable going up to, to ask some questions or ask for guidance

“They are both very approachable and they just know how to inspire the group, they complement each other and I think that’s a testament to how long they’ve been playing with each other and how well they play together too.”

Vixens first focus

Austin spoke about the Diamonds squad selection ahead of the Commonwealth Games, she said she was expectedly excited about the selection but is working hard to get more caps for Australia.

“I think you are so proud of yourself every time you get the chance to be in that squad,” she said

“I was certainly really proud of myself, particularly with the year that I had and the challenges that I faced.

“I guess every chance you get that phone call you get a little bit of feedback from Stacey (Marinkovich) so it’s really important that you take that on and implement what she tells you but also in a way that still fits into the game plan at the Vixens.

“Every game you’ve just gotta focus on what your team’s game plan is and performances will come from that and focusing on that.

“It’s a team sport before it is anything individualised so going out every week and playing how the Vixens want to play and hopefully we keep getting the results.”

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