By Aimee Dawson
The Melbourne Vixens were unable to bring the fairytale ending to captain Bianca Chatfield’s final game, being defeated in their final home game of the season by arch rivals, the NSW Swifts.
Today’s loss rules out the Vixens’ chance of making the 2015 finals series and becoming back-to-back premiers.
In a fitting end to retiring Chatfield’s last home game, a guard of honour was made by current Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts players, as well as ex-teammates including Liz Boniello, Natasha Chokljat and Sharelle McMahon.
When last the two teams met, just three weeks ago, the Swifts were convincing winners, inflicting the Vixens’ biggest ever loss.
This week the visitors did not get it all their own way, with the Vixens sticking goal-for-goal for the majority of the first quarter.
The frantically-paced and extremely physical encounter was led by the Swifts early, but remained at a one-goal margin for most of the quarter.
It wasn’t until a late intercept by former Vixen, Sharni Layton, who now plays goal defence for the Swifts, that the visitors were able to pull-away, securing a two-goal lead going into the first break.
In the second quarter however, the Swifts dominated their Victorian opponents in a similar way to the game played just weeks ago.
The Swifts stretched their two-goal lead to eight goals in the second term, however a fast finish for the Vixens thanks to a Liz Watson deflection, reduced the margin to six by half-time.
The third quarter was no let-off in terms of physicality for the teams, with the play being stopped regularly for injury time-outs and blood rules.
Jo Weston replaced Chatfield at goal defence for the Vixens, the first positional change to be made by either team.
A courageous fightback by the Vixens saw them just one goal down by the time the third quarter finished.
The home side kept the momentum going into the final term, briefly grasping the lead by two goals before some outstanding defence from the Swifts’ Sharni Layton, Julie Corletto and Abbey McCulloch saw them regain the lead and run home with the win.
Retiring captain Bianca Chatfield said the loss was disappointing.
“I’m sad that it’s my last game in Melbourne, I’m disappointed that we were so close today and couldn’t do it, it’s hard really, it’s a really surreal moment for me,” Chatfield said.
“it’s not often that I’ve played for this club and not made the finals, it’s going to be really hard to deal with that and we will have to make sure that we be professional about it and debrief as much as we can so that we are never in this position again.”
Vixens’ coach, Simone McKinnis, was full of praise for Bianca and her netball career spanning over 17 years.
“She just has the utmost respect of the players around her,” McKinnis said about Chatfield.
“She’s supportive, she’s encouraging, she’s there for everybody… I’ve been really lucky to work with her, the girls have been really lucky to have her and she’ll be a huge loss for us.”
The Vixens now head over to Auckland to play the Northern Mystics, who top the New Zealand conference ladder, for their final game of the 2015 season.