THERE has been a lot of player change over since the last time the Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies met in the 2019 semi-final, but unfortunately the result did not change for the Pies with the Vixens reigning supreme by 11 goals (63-52). With no Kim Ravaillion, April Brandley, Ash Brazill or Nat Medhurst the experience of Vixens shone true in the final term despite being well matched for the first three quarters.
It was a very even start for both teams, going goal for goal in the opening couple of minutes and feeling each other out. With Shimona Nelson unavailable it was up to Emma Ryde to lead the way for the Pies inside the goal circle with the towering goaler holding strong and proving to be the go-to girl under the post for the Magpies. She made full use of her height taking strong rebounds while goal attack Gabby Sinclair stepped up to the plate, shooting from range and taking the hard drive into the circle to draw the attention of Jo Weston and create a two goal lead. The return of Madi and Kelsey Browne paid dividends for the Pies in attack with the duo combining exceptionally well and putting on the afterburners to deliver into the circle.
Strong defensive pressure from the Vixens paid off creating a turnover and capitalising to level scores at six goals apiece. Despite the Magpies holding early momentum the Vixens fought their way back into the contest thanks to the pressure of Weston and Kadie-Ann Dehaney to create another turnover down in the Magpies attack. Up the other end the unexpected combination of Mwai Kumwenda and Caitlin Thwaites out in goal attack worked exceptionally well together keeping Geva Mentor’s head on a swivel. Thwaites sunk the first super shot for the Vixens prompting them to go on a run and open up a four goal lead. Tegan Philip had a shaky start to the game missing her first three shots and plunging the Vixens into an inaccurate end to the term but still holding a two goal lead.
Looking for more potency in their attack the Vixens reverted to their traditional shooting combination of Thwaites in at goal shooter and Philip out in goal attack with the duo looking more comfortable to post. Liz Watson continued to dominate with her impressive feeds and skill to hit the circle edge. For the Pies the youthful midcourt provided plenty of excitement with Molly Jovic displaying her strength around circle edge while co-captain Madi Browne showcased her extraordinary vision into the circle and clever touch.
Both sides tried to gain some form of continuity as Mentor displayed her class and experience with her pressure over the shot while Vixens newcomer Kate Eddy proved anything you can do I can do better, gobbling up a well-read intercept and sending the ball screaming down the court. The end-to-end play from the Vixens stunned the Magpies defence with their ability to treasure possession and punish them pushing out to a three goal lead. Undisciplined errors for the Pies continued to gift the Vixens chances to score as Kate Moloney led the way through the centre with her calming nature and turn of speed.
Collingwood debutant Jodi-Ann Ward plied her trade out in goal defence winning back a wealth of ball however the Pies focused too much on the high ball into Ryde allowing Emily Mannix to be a real nuisance under the post and get hands to ball, upsetting Ryde’s cleanliness and consistently attacking her hands to force the ball dribble out of court. The rolling subs continued to shake up the game for both sides with Nyah Allen entering her first match and hitting her stride with the first super shot. Increased intensity from the Pies saw them draw level heading into the break.
The third term followed suit with Kumwenda restoring the lead for the Vixens and finding their rhythm in attack. The midcourt connection from Eddy and Moloney was on song early with the duo applying a wealth of pressure at the transverse line to clog Collingwood’s centre pass. Ward was not afraid to take the game on, throwing her body at every contest and creating a battle in the air while fellow goal defence Weston displayed her tagging style of play to cover Sinclair’s every move and make life difficult for the Magpies in attack.
It continued to be goal for goal throughout the third term with neither side willing to give an inch. Three-foot marking seemed to be the flavour of the term with each and every player applying strong hands over pressure to block their opponents’ vision. Kelsey Browne upped the ante with her dynamic footwork and speed of release working well into Ryde but Dehaney remained a threat with the Vixens goal keeper riding her every step of the way.
Holding a two goal lead the Melbourne Vixens threw the magnets around with Eddy switching into goal defence and Weston donning the wing defence bib to nullify the influence of Kelsey Browne out the front. The constant rotations in the goal circle paid dividends for the Vixens with Collingwood unable to settle defensively but the Pies refused to go away drawing level once again five minutes into the final term. Both Matilda Garrett and Mel Bragg worked gallantly but simply could not shut down Philip and Watson respectively. In the end it was the experience of the Vixens that came through as their tried and tested connections enabled them to wear down the Collingwood unit and capitalise on their chances.
The shooter rotations worked wonders for the Vixens with Thwaites nailing 11 goals from 11 attempts at 100 per cent while from two point range she managed two goals from three attempts. The efforts of Philip did not go unnoticed with the goal attack sinking 16 goals as well as three goals from the two point range. Kumwenda played an instrumental role with a team high five goals from 10 attempts on the super shot. For the Pies Ryde was the go to girl with 34 goals at 90 per cent while Sinclair posted an overall 10 goals for the game. Madi Browne had the ball on a string in her return from injury with 13 goal assists while Vixens wing attack Watson also starred with a whopping 28 goal assists. Defensively Eddy burst out of the blocks with five gains and four intercepts.
MELBOURNE VIXENS 15 | 14 | 16 | 18 (63)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 13 | 16 | 14 | 9 (52)
GS: Mwai Kumwenda
GA: Caitlin Thwaites
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Kadie-Ann Dehaney
GS: Emma Ryde
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Madi Browne
WD: Melissa Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor