Melbourne Vixens hold their nerve to beat West Coast Fever 66-64 in Super Netball grand final - ABC News

 proxy.yoo.workers.dev  10/18/2020 04:09:01 

We thought we might not even get a Super Netball season in 2020, but here we are, having witnessed the tightest grand final of the new domestic league.

  • The Melbourne Vixens farewelled Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip with the victory
  • Jhaniele Fowler shot 54 goals from 55 attempts for the Fever, but player of the match Mwai Kumwenda answered with 47 from 50 for the Vixens
  • The Fever have now lost two grand finals, having been defeated by Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2018

The Melbourne Vixens defeated the West Coast Fever 66-64 to win their first premiership since 2014.

The tough, grinding game played in Brisbane  so far away from both teams' home fans  felt quiet at times, but the match itself did not disappoint, with the lead to-ing and fro-ing and never out of reach.

The Fever led by one point at the first break, after some crafty work from Verity Charles and Jhaniele Fowler upfront.

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Charles was setting up a high, floating feed way off the circle edge that made it hard for Vixens defenders to even get a look in.

While Fowler (54/55)  standing close to two-metres tall  continued with the impeccable accuracy that has seen her become the most dominant player in the league.

Heading out for the second quarter, Vixens goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda stepped up to the challenge.

Throughout the match she repeatedly "defied the law of physics", as Liz Ellis put it, using every inch of the goal circle and showing incredible balance to take feed after feed over her shoulder with the tips of her toes on the baseline, just outside the Fever's reach.

A smiling netballer raises her arms wide in celebration after the Super Netball grand final.
Mwai Kumwenda's goal shooting helped the Melbourne Vixens beat West Coast Fever in their first Super Netball grand final.(AAP: Albert Perez)

Kumwenda's composure under pressure and ability to convert at key times (47/50 at 94 per cent) saw her named the grand final player of the match.

It was here that the Vixens defence also started to work their way into the game, and some big moments from their back line  Emily Mannix, Jo Weston and Kate Eddy  saw three key turnovers head up the court and converted.

The Vixens had crept out to a four-goal lead as the game headed towards half-time.

But some quick-fire momentum from the Fever showcased how fast they could score, and in the space of just over a minute they were already back in front by a goal as the half-time buzzer went.

In the third quarter  known as the "championship quarter" for its defining period in a game  the Vixens really put their stamp on the game.

Head coach Simone McKinnis used the rolling subs to rotate the goal attack position, interchanging their two retiring shooters Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip to ensure their front line stayed fresh.

And their defensive pressure upped again across the court, Weston especially.

At the final break, the Vixens had won their first quarter (18-14) and were up by three  their first lead heading into a break.

But the game was not over yet, with the Fever never giving up.

They clawed their way back level and then back in front by two goals, with four and a half minutes left.

The Vixens started to look worried but showed in these final minutes why they had been the best team all season.

One of their crucial moments came through a build-up in the midcourt, that saw Fever defender Stacey Francis try and pass back to keeper Courtney Bruce.

But the attempt to try and reset turned into an intercept for Kumwenda, which was then converted.

Another collective effort by Mannix and Weston proved the difference.

West Coast goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld missed a two-point super shot in the Fever's final play, and the Vixens circle defenders' rebound pushed their team out to a two-goal lead.

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With seven seconds left on the clock and a centre pass up their sleeve, the Vixens were able to play a possession game to close out their first Super Netball grand final win.

The victory allowed them to farewell Thwaites and Philip in the best way possible and make the usually quiet McKinnis a very happy woman, as she celebrated with a couple of fist pumps on the sideline.

Speaking with Channel Nine after the match, Thwaites described it as a "really hard slog".

"We had practised all those scenarios at the end, so we knew exactly what to do.

"We really hope we've brought Victorian people some light and a good distraction in what's been a really hard year."

A smiling netballer raises her arms wide in celebration after the Super Netball grand final.
Mwai Kumwenda's goal shooting helped the Melbourne Vixens beat West Coast Fever in their first Super Netball grand final.(AAP: Albert Perez)
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