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2020 Grand Final preview

The Grand Final many have been predicting for much of the season, we preview the huge 2020 Grand Final between the Melbourne Vixens and West Coast Fever.

By Paddy Regester

It’s the Grand Final that, since their thrilling Round 10 draw, many have been predicting – the all-conquering minor premier Melbourne Vixens vs the high-scoring West Coast Fever.

A true strength-vs-strength matchup, we’re about to see if the league’s stingiest defensive unit in the Melbourne Vixens can slow down a Fever attack end that has scored an average of 69 points per game in 2020.

Let’s take a closer look at what is sure to be a spectacular Grand Final.

Fear the Foxes
Where do you start with a Melbourne team that dominates every aspect of the game?

The Vixens finished the regular season with a league best record of 11 wins, a draw and two losses and wrapped up the minor premiership in Round 12 with a win over the Magpies.

Top spot on the ladder meant a date with the second placed Lightning in the major semi final with a chance to go straight through to the Grand Final. The Vixens dominated the Lightning in that match, coming away with a 16 point win and their first trip to the big dance since 2014.

Emily Mannix (centre) and Liz Watson (right) of the Vixens celebrates winning the Major Semi-Final Super Netball match between the Melbourne Vixens and the Sunshine Coast Lightning at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast, Saturday, October 3, 2020.
Their midcourt, led by team co-captain’s Kate Moloney and Liz Watson, has been one of the best groups in the league for the last four seasons, and 2020 was no exception. Watson led all players in feeds and goal assists while no other midcourter scored more Nissan Net Points than Moloney.

After losing one of the greatest to play the Wing Defence position last year in Renae Ingles, the Vixens brought in Kate Eddy and she hasn’t missed a beat. They also have plenty of confidence in her backup Allie Smith, who has stood up with Eddy struggling with injuries down the stretch.

We’ve already spoken about this stout defensive crew, which allowed a league low 55 points against per game in the regular season. They may not cause the big turnover numbers that teams like the GIANTS and the Sunshine Coast do, but they make scoring against them difficult by piling on the pressure.

And that pressure isn’t just applied when the Vixens are defending.

The scoring efficiency of Caitlin Thwaites, Mwai Kumwenda, Tegan Philip and the Vixens mids is incredible. Their 86.2% shooting accuracy and 71.6% centre pass to goal efficiency are both the second best in the competition and tells the story of a team that scores whenever it has possession of the ball.

Want to meet the team who led the league in those two stats?

Fast Finishing Fever
Six rounds into the 2020 season, the West Coast Fever looked lost.

They had just two wins and four losses, including a shock 11 point defeat against the Queensland Firebirds, they were allowing a league high 68 points against and were facing a stretch of games against the Vixens, the Lightning twice and the Swifts.

Whether it was Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich being named the Diamonds Head Coach before their Round 7 match or the players finally getting over an unusually long case of jet lag, something changed after that Firebirds loss.

In the final eight rounds of the season, the Fever went six, one and one, beat the Lightning twice, the Swifts once, drew against the Vixens and averaged 71.4 points a game on their way to locking up third place on the ladder.

Jess Anstiss (left) and Stacey Francis (right) of the Fever celebrate during the Super Netball Preliminary Final match between the Sunshine Coast Lightning and West Coast Fever at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast, Sunday, October 11, 2020.
This setup a showdown with the reigning premier Swifts in the minor semi final. The Swifts came out firing in the win-or-go-home match, but the Fever were able to erase a nine point deficit and come away with a five point win.

They backed up that emotional victory with a 14 point decimation of the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the preliminary final, booking a place in the club’s second ever Grand Final.

While they’ve played much better defence in the second half of the season, this is a team built around their two-time MVP winning Goal Shooter Jhaniele Fowler, who’s had another incredible year.

She is the centrepiece of the highest scoring (69 points per game), most accurate shooting (86.3%) and most efficient from the centre pass (73.9 centre pass to goal percentage) attack end in the competition.

Like we said, this is a true strength vs strength matchup and one we can’t wait to watch.