Vixens show Melbourne is still their town
NETBALL: Melbourne Vixens have made a bold statement against their new cross-town rivals Collingwood in their opening Super Netball battle: this is our turf.
The Diamond-studded and highly-rated Magpies were upstaged on Saturday night by the young Vixens, who showed they weren't going to give up their claim as Melbourne's top team without a fight.
After recruiting five Diamonds' stars in their line-up to earn the tag as early premiership favourites, the spotlight has been on the Magpies all pre-season to deliver as Collingwood's newest sporting venture in the new Suncorp Super Netball league.
But the Vixens, Melbourne's sole netball team since 2008, had other ideas with their dramatic 58-55 victory at Hisense Arena.
Vixens' midcourter Liz Watson said this week the team was happy to take the underdogs tag going into the match, in which the Magpies had started as short-priced favourites, and they played like they had nothing to lose.
With their exciting new goaling combination of Malawi recruit Mwai Kumwenda and goal attack Tegan Philip starring and their midcourters taking it up to the Magpies' Diamonds' stars, the Vixens proved their talented young list will be one to watch in 2017.
The Magpies relied heavily in attack on the scoring of goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites, who top-scored with 47 goals from 48 attempts for the match.
The Vixens retained seven of their players from last season and it's clear those connections will be a strength for the team this year.
Vixens' goal attack Philip left a big hole in her team's attack last year after she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in a practice match on the eve of the season.
But she made a blistering return to remind everyone what the team had been missing.
Partnering exciting import Kumwenda in a dynamic new partnership, Philip did not miss a shot in a nine-goal opening quarter, finishing the match with 29 goals from 36 attempts to be named MVP for the match.
Kumwenda showed she will an X-factor to the team's attack, impressing with her flair to finish with 29 goals from 30 attempts.
She promised there would be no room for sentiment when she lined up against her former team for the first time and Madi Robinson was true to her word, but she won't have enjoyed losing to her old team.
Making one of the biggest moves of the off-season to cross to the start-up side, the former Vixens' captain was typically strong with her delivery into the circle, finishing with 13 goal assists, clearly enjoying having Thwaites as a target under the ring.
After a brilliant return from knee injury last season, Robinson is hoping to take her game to another level again this year.
For the first match between two new cross-town rivals, you couldn't argue otherwise.
From the opening whistle, the match was fast, physical and intense with the teams trading blows in the action and on the scoreboard.
A crowd of 8074 fans turned up for the opening round match - the first time Melbourne has had two netball teams in town since 2007.