The Melbourne Vixens have handed the West Coast Fever their second straight loss to start the trans-Tasman netball season with a 65-56 win.
West Coast Fever coach Norma Plummer will be urging her team to treat the rest of the trans-Tasman netball competition like a grand final each week if they want to push for a finals berth.
The Fever have never finished better than seventh in six previous ANZ Championship seasons but hopes were high in 2014 in Plummer’s third year in charge with the signings of Nat Medhurst, Chelsea Pitman and Khao Watts.
However, the Fever lost their opening game to the NSW Swifts in Sydney and then on Sunday, were 21 goals down at Challenge Stadium against the unbeaten Melbourne Vixens before rallying late to only lose by nine.
For the first three quarters, the Vixens simply looked a cut above all over the court with Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor dominant in defence, Madison Robinson and Liz Watson brilliant through the middle and Karyn Bailey and Tegan Caldwell scoring 35 and 25 goals respectively.
Last season, the fourth-placed team in the competition lost just five matches so with the Fever now having lost their first two it makes the job tough to stay in the finals hunt.
The Fever’s next challenge is the Canterbury Tactix in Perth next Sunday and Plummer knows if they can’t get on the board soon, it will be curtains already for 2014.
“Every game for us is going to be a grand final. I’ve never kidded myself on that and I’ve said that since day one,” Plummer said.
“Even next week we have the Tactix, who got a couple of scalps at the pre-season so you have to be on the ball and you can’t just think any game is going to be a walk in the park.
“If we want to be in the ball park, we’ve got to be able to get over the line.”
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis, by contrast, was delighted with her team’s start to the year, though would have liked to put the Fever away in the last quarter and win by more.
While the depth of the Vixens is one of their great strengths with the likes of Catherine Cox, Kate Moloney and Amy Steel coming off the bench, McKinnis knows they do need to keep up the work of Bailey, Caldwell, Mentor, Chatfield and Robinson when on the court.
“I just think we used our ball really well from the start of the game, not so much at the end, but we were using the ball really smart,” she said.
“We had options at the ball and we were letting it go. We had really good defensive pressure all over the court so there was a lot to like.”
The Vixens now return to Hisense Arena to take on the Queensland Firebirds next Sunday.