Not even a global pandemic could stand in the way of the Melbourne Vixens claiming the title after a nailbiting grand final victory over the West Coast Fever.
After almost a century of days spent locked out of their home state due to COVID-19, the Vixens’ 66-64 win at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena secured their first championship since 2014 and sent retiring stars Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip out in celebratory style.
Nothing separated the combatants until a tense final quarter when the COVID-restricted crowd of 2061 witnessed the Vixens clinch the result on the back of pure grit.
Scores were locked with 90 seconds left before Mwai Kumwenda gave the Vixens a one-point edge. Then, up stepped outstanding defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix who got their fingertips to a rebound in the dying seconds that kept the Fever at bay.
🏆VIXENS ARE 2020 CHAMPIONS!🏆
What a game. What a season. Unbelievable scenes! Congratulations! Take it all in, you've deserved it!👏
— 9Netball (@9Netball) October 18, 2020
Kumwenda then sent her teammates into raptures with her 47th point for the match.
The heartbreaking loss ended a gutsy fight from the Fever who were in pursuit of a maiden championship win.
They were well served by shooter Jhaniele Fowler who scored 55 points from 56 attempts and goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld, whose Suncorp Super Shot attempt in the closing seconds almost snatched a memorable victory.
The sweat of Vixens defenders Mannix, Weston and Kate Eddy fuelled a second quarter surge that threatened to take the game away from the Fever.
The trio amassed three intercepts and five deflections between them as the minor premiers asserted themselves at the defensive end.
Despite a few moments of indecision, the Fever recomposed themselves and steamed into halftime with a one goal lead thanks to a super shot from Fowler.
Teague-Neeld and Thwaites traded Super Shots in the last quarter before the Vixens defenders again made all the difference.
Q1: Vixens 15 v Fever 16
Q2: Vixens 17 v Fever 17
Q3: Vixens 18 v Fever 14
Q4: Vixens 16 v Fever 17
Nissan Player of The Match – Mwai Kumwenda (Melbourne Vixens)
Vixens shooting statistics
Mwai Kumwenda: Total points – 47 G1 47/50 (50%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Caitlin Thwaites: Total points – 16 G1 10/10 (100%) G2 3/7 (43%)
Tegan Philip: Total points – 3 G1 3/3 (100%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Fever shooting statistics
Jhaniele Fowler: Total points – 56 G1 54/55 (98%) G2 1/1 (100%)
Alice Teague-Neeld: Total points – 8 G1 4/5 (80%) G2 2/5 (40%)
Vixens starting seven: GS – Mwai Kumwenda GA – Caitlin Thwaites WA – Liz Watson C – Kate Moloney WD – Kate Eddy GD – Jo Weston GK – Emily Mannix
Fever starting seven: GS – Jhaniele Fowler GA – Alice Teague-Neeld WA – Emma Cosh C – Verity Charles WD – Jess Anstiss GD – Stacey Francis GK – Courtney Bruce