Melbourne Vixens co-captain Liz Watson (Picture: Melbourne Vixens/Twitter)

After losing the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final in 2022, the Melbourne Vixens have their coaches’ advice ringing in their ears. Getting back to finals is the key, with the team eager to bring glory back to Melbourne in more ways than one.

2023 looms as a massive season for co-captain Liz Watson and her team as they look to return to the grand final with a more favourable result this time around. With the West Coast Fever winning their maiden Suncorp Super Netball championship, the Vixens were left wanting.

Coupled with the fact that Victoria will host the Grand Final, the Vixens will be wanting to make sure they bring the cup back to Melbourne both physically and metaphorically.

Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum at the launch of the season, Liz Watson shared the Vixens’ perspective on the season ahead and what hosting the Grand Final would mean to them.

“Our coach [Simone McKinnis] said to us, it’s so hard for a team to get back into a grand final and she said we need to turn that mentality around,” Watson told The Inner Sanctum.

“We want to be back in that Grand Final [which will be] in Victoria, which will be awesome. I think it all starts with our pre-season, we’ve done a really great job so far, but everyone’s excited and everyone wants to win so there’s definitely motivation in the team.”

Another milestone looms if the Vixens are to return to the decider at the conclusion of the SSN season. With Visit Victoria partnering with Netball Australia, it was decided that Melbourne will host the Grand Final irrespective of the placing of the teams on the ladder.

After finishing as minor premiers last season and being unable to host the Grand Final due to Perth outbidding the other states, Watson is excited by the prospect of Vixens fans packing out John Cain Arena.

“It’s awesome, I just remember that semi-final last year at John Cain Arena, it was absolutely incredible, so loud [and] so noisy,” she said.

“We had our fan day at Federation Square on the weekend and the fans were really excited and there was a good turnout there. Round Three is our first home game for us so can’t wait for our fans to be there and to experience sport, like I said Melbourne does love its sport.”

With the competition kicking off on the 18th of March, Watson gave some insight into how the group is progressing through the pre-season.

“I’m really excited. I think it’s been like the longest pre-season for us and the last few weeks we’ve had lots of match play which is getting us really excited for the season to start so it’s gonna fly by once we get started so really keen just to kick it off.”

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With the same squad of 10 players as last season, the Vixens are still firm as finals contenders once again. The chemistry that the group formed last year will only grow, however, Watson insists that the challenge is not being complacent and continuing to grow together.

“It does help a lot [keeping the squad together] but then it’s also [important] not taking it for granted and putting in the work with those connections and building together and getting better as a team,” she said.

“We are very lucky to have the same group [and] a great training partner program, they pushed us and supported us for a long time so everyone’s really good friends with each other and that’s really helpful on court.”

Keen netball fans have noticed that there are a few players that have seen additional court time in the pre-season during the Team Girls Cup and Bound 4 Bendigo. Wing defence Kate Eddy, mid-courter Hannah Mundy, and defender Olivia Lewis will all see more time during SSN according to Watson.

“I think within our competition you need ten players that can step out on court [with] Liv Lewis, she’s great for us in that goalkeeper position [and] Hannah’s improving every single year,” Watson explained.

“I feel like Kate Eddy’s had one of her best pre-seasons as well and she will be looking really fit out there as well in that wing defence position.

“I think the beauty is that we can rotate and mix and match different combinations and you need that in this comp. You’ve got rolling subs and you’ve got fast teams, you’ve got to be able to change and run with it so I think we’ve got the ten who can do that.”

With the Netball World Cup taking place later this year, selection for the squad will be on the minds of all players in the competition. As the captain of the Australian Diamonds, Watson described how she feels about the year ahead internationally.

“It is a really big year but a very exciting year [too],” she said.

“It started at the quad series, we were in South Africa where we will be later in the year but it’s going to be [a] really tight and hot SSN season because everyone’s fighting for a spot in that world cup team. [It’s] an extra bit of motivation but [I’m] excited just to start and to be at that World Cup as well.”

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