Suncorp Super Netball

Out but not down: Thunderbirds back-to-back wins and milestones for Vixens

For two sides who will not feature in this year’s finals series, with the Adelaide Thunderbirds taking a 59-50 win against the Melbourne Vixens, both teams were out to prove a point tonight with the whispers of “wooden spoon” in the air. 

With only one left in both team’s schedules (Thunderbirds set to face the Swifts and Vixens the Firebirds respectively in round 14), that didn’t stop them from putting on a show tonight at Nissan Arena to no audience as per COVID restrictions. 

For the Melbourne Vixens, two of their superstars celebrated milestones tonight, defenders Jo Weston and Kate Eddy.  

Kate Eddy celebrated her 50th game milestone and Senior squad member Jo Weston celebrated her 100th national game milestone, made even more impressive by the fact that every single one of those 100 games was played in the Vixens dress. 

Both teams came out of the blocks early, starting the match strongly winning back the ball defensively, and making the attackers work hard to create opportunities. Possession in the first quarter was inconsistent, with alternating bursts of shots and time in possession.

Vixen’s goal attack Kaylia Stanton ended the first quarter with an impressive super shot from long-range, but it wasn’t enough, with the Adelaide Thunderbirds going into the first quarter time break with a two-goal lead, 15-13. 

In the first half, Georgie Horjus was unstoppable, shooting accurately under the post and in Super Shot range, and had a high volume rate in attack for the Thunderbirds. 

Emily Mannix was another standout, dominating in the Vixens defensive end in the first half with two intercepts and three deflections. 

Going into the half-time break, the Thunderbirds were shooting a high volume percentage at 97% whilst for the Vixens, questions were raised whether changes will be made at GA for the second half with the Vixens shooting at a lower percentage at 71.4% and a costly 6 contacts for Kaylia Stanton (the second most contacts in the overall penalty count).

Thunderbirds came into the third quarter firing, pushing the Vixens to find answers on how to get back into the match forcing them to make changes off the bench. 

In direct response to Emily Mannix’s effort, down the other end, Shamera Sterling dominated for the Thunderbirds. Sterling earned three intercepts and two deflections and quickly lead the statistics in gains which the Thunderbirds were able to convert which left the Vixens attack scrambling. 

Showing no signs of taking their foot off of the pedal, the Thunderbirds continued their dominance going into the three-quarter time break extending their lead to 11-goals. 

Sterling continued her streak in the last quarter, adding six intercepts and nine gains to her stats, with only six minutes left to play in the match. 

To the Melbourne Vixens credit, they did not give up the fight. The Vixen’s defensive end worked hard to win back ball, but unfortunately, the attack end was unable to capitalise and convert turnovers.

In the final minutes, Weston and Smith went down with a nasty head clash, no word of any injuries but surely salt in the wound for the Vixen’s defenders.

The Vixens managed to close the margin to nine goals during the Super Shot period, but it wasn’t meant to be, as the Adelaide Thunderbirds were victorious winning the match 59-50.

Player of the match was deservedly awarded to the Thunderbirds pocket rocket goal attack, Georgie Horjus. Horjus finished the night with 93.3% accuracy and did a mighty effort in attack with 14 assists, 18 feeds and the most centre pass receives of the night at 20.

Last week in an upset, the Thunderbirds beat the Sunshine Coast Lightning (a current top-four team) and with this win against the Melbourne Vixens, that makes back-to-back wins for the Thunderbirds which begs the question, did the team peak too late in the season? 

While neither team can mathematically make finals at this stage in the season, with the top four teams having two games left to play, there is an opportunity for the Thunderbirds and the Vixens to have a role in who stays in the top four in round 14 and the minor premiership is still up for grabs.

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