By Aimee Dawson
The Melbourne Vixens are looking ahead to the 2015 season with the hopes of winning back-to-back Premierships.
The reigning Premiers are in good stead ahead of the 2015 campaign, retaining all of their starting seven players from the 2014 Grand Final.
The Vixens lost four players from the 2014 season, most notably veteran shooter Catherine Cox, who retired at the end of the season.
Defender Amy Steel made the move to the Adelaide Thunderbirds whilst midcourter Caitlyn Nevins (nee Strachan) and shooter Erin Hoare relocated to the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts respectively.
Three players will make their ANZ Championship debut this year, with the Vixens signing debutants Emily Mannix, Alice Teague-Neeld and Chloe Watson.
The Vixens have also recruited former NSW Swifts shooter Carla Dziwoki who has a wealth of talent and expertise to add to the team.
Dziwoki said she was excited to join the Vixens for the 2015 season.
“I had my review post season and they said that [the NSW Swifts] wouldn’t be re-signing me the following year, and I just thought netball was all done and dusted then,” Dziwoki said.
“I was half thinking that netball was over, and then got this lifeline from the Vixens.”
“I was excited and said ‘of course I’ll come’, you don’t say no to the Vixens.”
With the Vixens retaining the bulk of their on-court team from last season that performed so dominantly, they have the chance to become the first team in the ANZ Championship to win back-to-back Premierships.
Dziwoki said that she really wants a Premiership after hearing the way her teammates speak of their Grand Final win last year.
“I feel like I’m missing something – I really want a Premiership myself now.”
“I think that’s just given me the drive, the way they [the Vixens] speak of it, the feeling of elation and everything like that that they speak of after a Premiership, I think that’s spurred them on, that they want that again at the end of the season,” said Dziwoki.
“Certainly myself and the new ones coming in want to be part of that.”
To go back-to-back the Vixens will have to overcome the Premiership curse which only one team has beaten so far in the ANZ Championship.
The Premiership curse is when the Premiers fail to make the finals the following year. Only the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have beaten the curse so far in the Championship.
Dziwoki does not think that the curse will be a problem for the Vixens though.
“We don’t mention all the time that it’s about back-to-back or anything like that, I think that it hangs over your head, but it’s certainly not something that we speak of often.”
“I think if we can go through and do the basics, do them well and focus on the job at hand, I really think that we can do it.”
Dziwoki made her Melbourne Vixens debut at the pre-season tournament in Sydney last weekend.
“It was fantastic to put on the Vixens’ dress and it felt a bit funny at first like ‘what are these colours but I loved it’,” Dziwoki said.
“It was great, I was very excited to get out there and I really am loving my netball at the minute and I think it’s due to the people around me which is great.”
The Vixens produced wins in every game except one, against the Vixens’ trouble-team – the NSW Swifts.
The Vixens travelled to the Summer Shootout in Sydney without their Australian Diamonds’ goal attack, Tegan Caldwell, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
Dziwoki, however, said that you can’t read too much into the results from the pre-season competition.
“I think in a pre-season comp you can’t look too much into it, you don’t want to be peaking at this time of the season, so we went out with the intention that we wanted to work on combinations.”
“We went back to the training field this week with the aim of ironing out some of the things we picked up from the pre-season.”
As for the Vixens’ biggest threats for the season, Dziwoki identified the West Coast Fever, who went through the Summer Shootout undefeated, and the Queensland Firebirds.
“The Australian teams are always so strong,” Dziwoki said.
“Looking at pre-season Fever did well, I don’t know if you can base anything from that, but they look like they’re strong and Natalie Medhurst and [Caitlin] Bassett are firing.
The Melbourne Vixens begin their 2015 season against the New Zealand franchise, the Central Pulse, in Melbourne on March 1st.
With the Vixens retaining the bulk of their premiership team from the last year and the recruitment of the experienced Carla Dziwoki and young up-and-comers, they are in a good place ahead of the 2015 season.
With this team that has gelled together so well over the past season, the Vixens definitely can beat the Premiership curse and have the potential to go back-to-back. The team has depth in all areas of the court, particularly the shooting end, so injuries should not derail their campaign, whilst their biggest threat could be the other teams in the competition getting too familiar with their playing style.
The 2015 Team
Karyn BAILEY (GS/GA)
Tegan CALDWELL (GS/GA)
Bianca CHATFIELD (GD/GK)
Carla DZIWOKI (GS/GA)
Kate MALONEY (C/WD)
Emily MANNIX (GD/GK)
Geva MENTOR (GD/GK)
Maddison ROBINSON (WA/C)
Alice TEAGUE-NEELD (GS/GA)
Chloe WATSON (WD/GD)
Liz WATSON (WA/C)
Joanna WESTON (WD/GD/GK)
Coach: Simone MCKINNIS
Image courtesy of Herald Sun