The West Coast Fever proved too strong for the Melbourne Vixens, who look at risk of earning their first Super Netball wooden spoon.
A signature effort from star goaler Jhaniele Fowler has helped West Coast Fever underline their Super Netball championship credentials with a 64-50 drubbing of the Melbourne Vixens in their rescheduled round 8 clash.
Just days after players were moved to a hub in Brisbane – a week after Adelaide had seemed the final destination for players this season – the clubs lined up in their controversially postponed clash.
Scores were level in the second half but the Fever dominated the first two quarters, pushing out to a 14-point lead by halftime to seal the win.
Fowler finished with 58 goals on 98 per cent shooting and was well supported by goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld, who did a power of work in front of the circle to leave her towering goal shooter with a one-on-one play.
The upheaval of the past week and move to a hub in Queensland means Super Netball has not yet bedded down its Round 12 fixture, with games not being held this weekend.
But with the Vixens and Fever both arriving in Brisbane on Tuesday, the league took the opportunity to play the postponed Round 8 match between the two clubs.
While the Vixens sit at the bottom of the ladder, they played a strong three quarters, with just their second-quarter showing cruelling their chance of an upset.
The clash was crucial for the Fever, whose finals chances are on a knife edge after back-to-back losses to the Swifts and Lightning.
Thursday’s win – in a closed match at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena – puts them in fourth spot on the ladder though, a win ahead of the Queensland Firebirds, with the best percentage of any team currently in finals contention despite their 12-point penalty for historic salary cap breaches.
Fowler on song
Fowler has won the league’s top award for the past three seasons and she showed why she is such a danger with her performance on Thursday night.
The 198cm Jamaican was not just an immobile target under the post, but showed a range of skills as Vixens keepers Emily Mannix and Kadie-Ann Dehaney both worked to deny her ball.
Her first-half move outside the circle, drive in and one-handed pulldown of a feed before a successful shot was a sublime display of her skill.
Spicy match becomes mild
The she-said, she-said surrounding the initial postponement – the Fever publicly accused the Vixens of “refusing” to travel to Perth after three of their senior players were denied entry to Western Australia while the Vixens argued they could not make a competitive team – had set the scene for plenty of spice in the clash.
But events of the past week, where teams have scrambled from state to state at a moment’s notice with the season on a knife-edge had reinforced the collegial nature of the league.
While it was a physical encounter – Fever midcourter Jess Anstiss was involved in a couple of heavy clashes with her opponents in the third term – there was no spite in the match, with events of last month overshadowed by recent Covid dramas.
Going to 100 celebrates
It was not the way last year’s grand final MVP would have wanted to bring up her Super Netball century but Vixens shooter Mwai Kumwenda underlined her importance to the team with a strong game.
Kumwenda finished with 39 points on 35-of-41 shooting and her efforts helped drag her team back into the match on several occasions.
The Malawian international’s fiercely competitive nature and love for her club was once again on display as the now senior team-member showed her shooting partners what is required for success at the top level.
WEST COAST FEVER 64 (Fowler 58, Teague-Neeld 5, Cosh 1)
MELBOURNE VIXENS 50 (Kumwenda 39, Stanton 9, Barkmeyer 2)