The Melbourne Vixens rained supershots to continue their strong form in season 2022 by powering over the previously undefeated West Coast Fever in front of a delighted Melbourne crowd.
These were the only two unbeaten teams in the league and it showed in the quality of the game. With a combined eight turnovers to halftime, both teams treasured the ball and had to make the most of limited opportunities to score off an opposition centre pass.
The teams were evenly matched for much of the contest, with the supershot and low scoring from the Fever in the third quarter spelling the end of their unbeaten run. The Vixens were slick in attack and took advantage of the gains they got, scoring off 82% to the Fever’s 56%.
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Some purple patches from the Fever defence saw them able to claw back deficits throughout the game. A change in the Fever defence in the second quarter had the intended effect with the Fever able to pick up more defensive ball and transition out of defence to great effect.
As commentator Madi Browne explained, the Fever “enjoy playing at a frenetic pace” and they looked at their best when they used their speed.
With the Fever noticeably tiring in the second half of the game, the Vixens continued their slick attack. Kiera Austin was particularly impressive as she puts her hand up for Commonwealth Games selection, continuing her return to form from Round 3. She finished on 29 goals from 35 attempts, 16 feeds, 20 centre pass receives and one gain.
MVP Liz Watson also provided a strong presence in attack with 42 circle feeds. The work of Kate Eddy had a grinding game at wing defence, and was crucial in cutting off the dynamic Alice Teague-Neeld, particularly in the latter part of the game.
The Vixens were able to overrun a fatigued Fever in the final half with Vixens coach Simone McKinnis commenting after the game that she was “really pleased we were able to maintain the work rate for four quarters.”
West Coast Fever remain perfect in 2022 | 01:28
MELBOURNE VIXENS 75, WEST COAST FEVER 66
John Cain Arena, Melbourne
BATTLE OF THE BENCHES
With the tight turnaround between games, the use of arguably two of the strongest benches in the competition was interesting. Neither coach was afraid to ring the changes, with all but one player used at various points.
Stacey Francis-Bayman and Olivia Lewis were particularly impressive in defence for their teams when brought on at goal defence and goal keeper respectively, and made themselves impossible to bench with strong performances. Rahni Samason was also impressive in her cameos off the bench..
HOME AND AWAY
The Fever have always had a raw deal with the amount of travel they have to do compared with other teams. Between Rounds 3 and 4, the Fever travelled 7695km and played two games in three days.
This showed in the final two quarters with the fatigued looking side scoring just 30 goals in the second half compared to 36 in the first, despite four supershots to end the game. As coach Dan Ryan stated “we’ve had a pretty hectic week leading into [the game], but certainly we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be”.
Thesupershot made its presence known in this game, with the Vixens using all three shooters to advantage in supershot periods. In the supershot period of the second quarter, the Vixens sank four to go out to a five-goal lead.
With the game all but gone in the fourth quarter, the Fever found their accuracy on the supershot, nailing four in the final five minutes, but it was too little too late.
Lightning secure first win of season | 00:51
BIG SECOND HALF SEES FIREBIRDS RUN AWAY WITH IT
Both teams were licking their wounds after sizeable losses in round three – with just one win apiece in 2022, they were in danger of their season derailing.
Giants Netball were hosting their first home game, and needed to focus on connections across the court, as they were lagging most teams in defensive stops and leading them in turnovers.
The visiting Queenslanders continued their sparkling form, improving yet again the vision to new recruit Donnell Wallam. The Giants were chasing most of the match and lost by 13 goals.
Firebirds took control early and stretched their advantage throughout. Their attacking plan used crisp short passes and the width of the court, always watching for the decisive drive to the circle edge. Preliminary moves and dodges made it appear at times like a training run. In defence they were energised, clean, and organised, making the Giants question every pass and wait till the third second to get the ball away.
The hosts took some heart from a better defensive showing compared to previous rounds, Tilly McDonell taking five intercepts and Amy Parmenter four. At times McDonell and April Brandley dictated the movements of the Queensland shooters into awkward spaces, and then adapted by hunting ball outside the circle.
Jo Harten also demonstrated her level head and wonderful accuracy, a big step up from recent form. Unfortunately her teammate couldn’t follow suit – Sophie Dwyer dropped to 65% accuracy down from her normal 85%, with a dismal 1/7 supershots – surely spelling the Giants need to reconsider their long term strategy.
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 72, GIANTS NETBALL 59
Ken Rosewall Arena, Sydney
NO HOLES IN THE WALL
Firebirds gave another masterclass in centre pass wall defence.The blocking tactic slowed down the Giants’ previously slick setups, and the moving zone covered the first and second options, forcing a reset or a risky cross-court ball. Eboni Usoro-Brown improved her combination with both goal defenders, with the circle defence taking a combined 18 gains and intercepts, and rookie goal defence Ruby Bakewell-Doran nearly spotless with only three penalties.
The amazing athleticism of the Queensland goal attack was on show all night. Firebirds needed only to bring the ball to the attacking transverse and Gretel Bueta could find whatever space she wanted. Then she was able to either perform a slick jump pass to fellow basketballer Wallam, or dish off and drive under the post herself, shooting at 100% from one-point range with 23/23. The rookie shooter for her part shot 45 goals at 85%, and as former captain Gabi Simpson observed, Wallam, “Has come in and been fearless, and brings joy to the game!”
The Giants sank their own ship with a hefty swag of turnovers. Whilst Jo Harten admirably reduced her average turnovers from 12 a game to three in round 4, the ball coming down was sprayed by other team members 25 times. GIANTS tried rejigging their lineup but the results sagged even further, forcing exhausted players coming back from COVID illness to return to court.
THE COVID SHUFFLE
The Giants have been heavily impacted by illness in the past couple of rounds and continued to struggle tonight with both Maddy Hay and April Brandley needing stints on the bench. Afterwards Tilly McDonell remarked that “We’re a resilient bunch,… and perhaps we’re lucky that we’ve had these problems at the start of the season, rather than the end.”