RECORDS will show that in 2012, the Vixens won the minor premiership, having finished on top of the ladder with 10 wins and 3 losses.
We did it by percentage only, such is the evenness of the competition, demonstrated again by the Queensland Firebirds — last year’s premier — not making the finals.
Our final match was against New Zealand’s Southern Steel, the second of our two games in New Zealand. We won 56-38.
I wrote in this column last week that the New Zealand crowds get into their netball like no other country. And the crowd for the Steel game didn’t disappoint, once again being extremely vocal and one-eyed.
It was a long trip south to Invercargill from our training base in Wellington in the North Island arriving to a fresh minus 4 degrees. And it wasn’t just the temperature that was icy.
If we were in any doubt about the reception we were about to receive, it was made clear on our way into the change rooms where there was “fake” fox fur and footprints with statements like “send the Vixens back”, “rip off their ears” and “hunt them down”, all from mad supporters.
Now that the home-and-away series is over, the important stuff starts. But I’ve taken the time to reflect on the season so far. And it’s funny to think at the start of the year many netball experts were predicting that the Vixens would be wooden spooners after losing Sharelle McMahon. I can see why many came to that conclusion as other ANZ Championship teams — full of international representatives — seemed so much stronger “on paper”.
Against the odds we did better than any other team in the minor round. Why? Was it our “Camp Extreme” in the pre-season, where we have never been pushed so far mentally and physically? Was it because we couldn’t rely on Sharelle McMahon as much, so everyone else stepped up? Or was it a couple of early wins on the road that built confidence and made the difference. We were certainly good in the close ones.
I can’t say definitively why we had a good season. Some or all of these factors were probably at play.
Some others too perhaps. I guess that’s the beauty of sport — a great performance is a little elusive. You don’t ever know for certain who’s going to win. And that’s the way we like it. But it wasn’t just a good season for the Vixens.
I think netball has had a great season with increased crowds and more exposure. Our game this Sunday is at Rod Laver Arena. That’s a first for netball. Earlier in the year we played the West Coast Fever and there were more people watching us than were at the MCG the same day to watch North Melbourne play Gold Coast Suns. Even just a year ago I don’t think I would have thought that was possible. I really feel that netball is on the verge of becoming a fully-professional sport. Maybe sooner than we think.
Now, as I said, the serious stuff starts Sunday when we take on Northern Mystics in the major semi-final. Rod Laver Arena holds 15,000 people and we aim to sell it out. I hope to see as many of you there as possible.