New-look Vixens feel the Fever’s heat in grand final rematch

Stacey Francis was a crucial part of the West Coast Fever's dominant defence, demolishing the Melbourne Vixens by 14 goals. Photo: West Coast Fever / Twitter

Under the freshly unfurled 2020 premiership flag, last year’s runners up the West Coast Fever demolished the Melbourne Vixens by 14 goals on Saturday afternoon. 

To start their 2021 season, the Vixens took a look back at the year that was and celebrated their premiership title with their much loved Melbourne fans.

Once the flag was hanging from the John Cain Arena rafters though, it was time for the Vixens’ title defence to get underway.

It was turnover city to start this match. The vocal crowd, who hadn’t seen live Super Netball in over 600 days, set the atmosphere and both teams had early energy to make deflections and chase after loose balls.

The Vixens early two goal lead was short-lived as the Fever brought the heat. 

West Coast’s physicality and the dominance of Jhaniele Fowler in the goal circle was key to the early scoreboard lead.

In defence, rising star Sunday Aryang impressed with her leap and cover of ex-teammate Kaylia Stanton’s shot. 

While they started strong, the Vixens’ new line-up had some trouble gelling.

Kate Moloney led through the middle but communication wavered around her. This made it difficult to transition the ball, resulting in a lack of flow in the attacking third.

Vixens coach Simone McKinnis was quick to go to her bench in the second term, bringing in young goal attack Ruby Barkmeyer for her first Super Netball match.

Speaking post match, McKinnis was pleased with Barkmeyer’s ability to step up in the moment.

“I liked what Ruby brought out there,” she said.

“She stepped up to it. It’s a huge learning for her, but I thought there was some strong movement.”

McKinnis also looked to leaping Jamaican defender Kadie-Ann Dehaney before half-time for a different approach to Fever goal shooter, Fowler.

Once injected into the game, Dehaney had three rebounds, along with three deflections and an intercept.

“She did have a really good impact Kadie-Ann. I think she really impacted on the shot as well on Jhaniele,” McKinnis said

“It’s about the ability to maintain that.”

Both benches were well used, with West Coast looking to Sasha Glasgow to change up its own attacking end.

After moving across from Adelaide, Glasgow came on with immediate impact at goal attack, sinking a super shot. 

Stacey Francis featured at wing defence in the second half for the Fever, while Olivia Lewis came into goal keeper late in the contest.

The West Coast Fever proved too strong for the reigning premiers, who are younger and less experienced in 2021.

Jhaniele Fowler was named Most Valuable Player for her domination of the scoreboard, shooting 54 goals from 58 attempts.

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Vixens premiership players Tegan Philip and Caitlin Thwaites were on hand to present the cup and unfurl the flag. Once the game got underway their experienced was sorely missed.

McKinnis said retirements and injuries to experienced players do make a difference.

“Obviously it is a big difference [losing three senior players],” she said.  

“You always miss players with that experience.” 

Despite the heavy loss, McKinnis saw plenty of positive signs.

“You never want a loss like that, it’s not what we’re after but I think there is plenty of up from there for us to take into the next one,” she said.

“We’re going to get better and better each week.

“There were some really good patches, but then some patches that really opened things up. 

“We got to see different combinations and different players. There’s a lot to be gained from that.”

After its round one win, West Coast will sit at negative eight points in the Super Netball standings after being penalised with a deduction of premiership points for their salary cap breaches in 2018 and 2019.

The Vixens will look to improve on Saturday’s performance when they host the Sunshine Coast Lightning in round two, while the Fever return to Perth to host the NSW Swifts and aim to continue gaining back the penalty points.

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