A lot can change in a year as tonight’s second Grand Final Rematch between the West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens from Nissan Arena, Brisbane, can attest.
To put that into perspective, Grand Final Rematch I was played at John Cain Arena, Melbourne. In round 8, Grand Final Rematch II was due to go ahead before a very public postponement was announced amid changing border restrictions due to COVID-19.
Several key Vixens players were denied entry into WA which prompted some rescheduling – before the entire competition was relocated to Adelaide before Round 11.
Only to then be relocated to Brisbane earlier this week following South Australia’s lockdown.
Since the first Grand Final Rematch in Melbourne, Fever and Vixens have been on very different paths.
Having lost the grand final in 2020 by just a handful of goals, West Coast Fever is playing its way through salary cap penalties to now sit fourth on the ladder, and hope to use a win tonight to solidify their finals standing.
A loss would see them under pressure from Queensland Firebirds and West Coast’s next clash with the ‘Birdies would be a make or break match.
Fever is eight wins and two losses this season and is coming off a 25-goal demolition of the Adelaide Thunderbirds -ironically held in Perth last weekend – with a team who boast some of the lowest turnover stats and possession changes in the league, along with formidable combinations across the court.
Suncorp Super Netball’s reigning premiers, in contrast, have fallen to the bottom of the ladder in a tough two wins, eight losses season. Coming off its second Melbourne Derby loss of the season, Vixens will now try to disrupt the title contenders.
Despite a formidable shooting talent in Mwai Kumwenda, the Vixens have struggled to find their groove in the circle, with regular rotations and poor accuracy- just 79% across all three shooting options last week- hampering their season.
Fever does not face the same issues in that regard, with Goal Attacks Sasha Glasgow and Alice Teague-Neeld offering good options with Jhaniele Fowler dominating the shooting stakes.
Against the Thunderbirds last round, Fowler missed just one of her 58 goal attempts and looks to continue that form tonight.
She’ll be up against some heavyweight Vixens defenders through in Emily Mannix and Jo Weston, who proved the difference against Fever last year.
While not quite at the height of their form from last season, the duo came away with eight gains from their match against the Collingwood Magpies and are in with a good chance of continuing this trend.
West Coast’s own defence boasts one of Suncorp Super Netball’s latest generation of strong young talents, in the form of Sunday Aryang.
Called up to the extended squad just last year, Aryang finished with five deflections, four gains and three intercepts against the Adelaide Thunderbirds last weekend.
She’s quickly established herself as a confident defender, whose timely efforts can be counted upon to undermine offensive momentum. Beside her in the defensive line up, keeper Courtney Bruce offers a good physical option to counter the Vixens shooters and nab a few choice intercepts.
Perhaps the most exciting battle will take place in the midcourt.
Vixens captain Kate Moloney remains a force in the centre, while Hannah Mundy is starting to step up and flourish for Melbourne.
Mundy offered up 32 feeds and 17 goal assists in last round’s loss.
That tough competition? The trio of Stacey Francis-Bayman, Jess Anstiss and Verity Charles.
This season has seen Anstiss and Charles in particular feed very comfortably to Fowler, with the latter notching 27 goal assists last round – let alone Francis-Bayman leading the way at the defensive end.
It’s a combination that has caused plenty of headaches this season, and that looks set to continue.
Ultimately, the contest comes down to consistency and pressure – something Fever proved to be very good at last weekend.
Check out the match tonight from 7.30pm on Telstra TV or through the Netball Live App.
Categories: Suncorp Super Netball
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