The Melbourne Vixens have completed the ultimate redemption defeating the Mission Queensland Firebirds by 11 goals to be crowned Premiers of the 2014 ANZ Championship.
After multiple finals and Grand Final appearances in the past five seasons, the title is the Melbourne Vixens’ first since 2009.
The Vixens shot 16 goals to eight in the final term to blow the margin out to a double-digit lead, with retiring veteran Cath Cox shooting six from seven crucial attempts to confirm the victory.
In a topsy-turvy final quarter, both sides’ nerves came to the form as the Vixens and Firebirds traded possession, before the visitors took an early three-goal lead.
Yet Grand Final MVP Tegan Caldwell (30 from 33) stood tall in a dominant first quarter, nailing nine of her fist 10 shots, as the Vixens turned the tide to take a two-goal lead into quarter time.
The Vixens continued their momentum into the second quarter, as Karyn Bailey (17 from 22) stood tall amid admirable defensive performance from both Firebirds captain Laura Geitz and fellow defender Clare McMeniman.
Kate Moloney was a sensation at wing defense both in mopping up deflected balls from fellow defenders Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor (five intercepts), as well as blanketing jobs on both Verity Simmons and Nicola Gray.
The 21-year-old – playing her first Grand Final alongside Liz Watson – played a superb hand in the victory, with only a small lapse in the final minute of the second quarter, that saw the Vixens’ five-goal lead cut to just two goals at half time.
After the main break, it was the Firebirds who came out, capitalising on three missed chances in the space of the first 90 seconds of the third quarter.
Yet despite the run, the Firebirds could only managed to level at 24-all.
A Romelda Aiken (25 from 30) miss from right under the net that could’ve seen the Firebirds lead and regain possession, proved costly as the Vixens pushed again to lead 37-34 at the final break.
The script was then written and printed, when Simone McKinnis replaced Bailey with Cox, much to the Hisense Arena crowd’s delight.
The home side couldn’t break a three-goal lead until a Mentor intercept saw Caldwell land consecutive goals to increase the margin to five, with the Firebirds calling a time out with 11 and a half minutes left.
From there on, it would be all the Vixens as Cox and Caldwell landed all but one goal in the final stanza to see Melbourne victorious by 53-42.
Speaking post-match Simone McKinnis spoke of her side being “clinical” in their approach to their season and today’s win.
“It’s a buzz word we’ve used quite often during the year,” the premiership-winning coach said.
“When we started the year it was all about being “clinical” in the accuracy of our execution, doing drill after drill, where you had to do it for a certain period of time without any drops or without any mistakes.
“When Bianca talks about hard work, that’s groundwork of hard work and expectations and the girls have built on that throughout the year.”
McKinnis said the move to bring Cox on wasn’t premeditated or based on any moment of emotion or script.
“I had complete confidence in Cath. I wasn’t about things falling apart, or things not working, it was just the right time to have that injection of spark and I had eveyr confidence that she would come in and finish it off.”
Match MVP Tegan Caldwell said the past month since selection in Commonwealth Games Australian Diamonds squad had been something of a blur.
“To playing for the Vixens, let alone in a Grand Final win, I’d never thought it’d happen,” Caldwell said.
“I’m really stoked and pumped to be spending the time of celebration with the girls and the coach.”
The captain Chatfield said she was immensely proud of how her group came together.
“It was about keeping everything positive out on court and eventually it will come our way,” Chatfield said.
“I think in the second and third quarter they threw us everything they had, but I knew we still had more to give.
“To be in that last quarter and really push it and then win by 11 goals is just incredible.”