At least two conclusions can be drawn from the Melbourne Vixens’ 68-59 defeat of the West Coast Fever at Nissan Arena on Tuesday.
Firstly, they are not a team that strings together poor performances, as evidenced by their bounce back just two days after their shock result against the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Secondly, they have no obvious weakness.
From the outstretched arms of goal keeper Emily Mannix to the confidence and cohesion of shooting pair Caitlin Thwaites (32 points) and Tegan Philip (26 points), the competition-leading Vixens are an outfit that must be a nightmare to scout.
The Fever had their moments, and they remain dependant on star goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler (47 points at 98 per cent accuracy).
But as committed as the Fever were, they never recovered from the dominant first quarter put together by the Vixens.
Coach Simone McKinnis gave her Vixens starting seven full games to brush out the cobwebs from the weekend and the players responded positively.
“We did only play two days ago and we weren’t happy at all with that,” Philip said. “If I’m not putting out the performance I need, I need to take responsibility for that.”
The Vixens quickly flushed any remnants from Sunday’s loss with a dominant first quarter. Not even treatment for an ankle injury to co-captain Kate Moloney could unsettle them with the ruthless Kate Eddy as their beating heart.
The Vixens wing defence poached two intercepts, a deflection and turned provider with a long, looping feed to Thwaites. It was enough to help the Vixens to 21 first-term points, equal to the highest quarter tally for any side this season.
The introduction of Fever captain Courtney Bruce in the second quarter pumped some energy into the 2018 grand finalists. Her rebounding and ball-winning prowess gave the Fever enough possession to keep pressure on. Regular goal keeper Bruce finished the game at goal defence, one of two problem positions for the Fever.
The other thorn for coach Stacey Marinkovich is at goal attack where neither Alice Teague-Neeld nor Kaylia Stanton could make a lasting impact.
The Fever sit fourth before the remainder of the round five matches are completed.
Q1: Fever 14 v Vixens 21
Q2: Fever 14 v Vixens 13
Q3: Fever 17 v Vixens 18
Q4: Fever 14 v Vixens 16
Nissan Player of The Match – Tegan Philip (Melbourne Vixens)
Fever shooting statistics
Jhaniele Fowler: Total points – 49 G1 – 47/48 (98%) G2 – 1/6 (17%)
Alice Teague-Neeld: Total points – 2 G1 – 2/5 (40%) G2 – 0/1 (0%)
Kaylia Stanton: Total points – 2 G1- 2/2 (100%) G2 – 0/3 (0%)
Emma Cosh: Total points – 6 G1- 2/4 (50%) G2 – 2/2 (100%)
Vixens shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites: Total points – 34 G1 – 30/31 (97%) G2 – 2/6 (33%)
Tegan Phillip: Total points – 34 G1 – 18/19 (95%) G2 – 8/10 (80%)
Fever starting seven: GS – Jhaniele Fowler GA – Alice Teague-Neeld WA – Ingrid Colyer C – Verity Charles WD – Jess Anstiss GD – Stacey Francis GK – Olivia Lewis
Vixens starting seven: GS – Caitlin Thwaites GA – Tegan Philip WA – Liz Watson C – Kate Moloney WD – Kate Eddy GD – Jo Weston GK – Emily Mannix