Melbourne Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield has sent out a warning to their ANZ Championship final series opponents that the minor premiers are yet to play their best despite finishing the season on top of the table.
The Vixens claimed the minor premiership with their tenth victory of the season in last weekend’s final round with a 56-38 victory over the Southern Steel but the captain isn’t convinced her side has reached its potential.
“I don’t think we’ve actually played our best game yet which is nice to know that we’ve still got that sitting somewhere and hopefully we can pull it out,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield believes her side is in the best possible position to become the first team in the ANZ Championship to win the premiership twice after the first four years of the trans-Tasman competition were won by four different franchises.
Needing just two more victories to make history, the Vixens head into this year’s finals with the added advantage of a home semi-final and a second chance should the result not go their way this weekend.
“From my experience in the old (Commonwealth Bank Trophy) and new (ANZ Championship) competitions, I think (the minor premiership) puts you into the best spot to win the premiership at the moment,” Chatfield told Netball Australia.
“I think it becomes vital to not only have a second chance but be able to play at home, not having the travel to go into the game, especially with our back end of the season where we spent a whole week over in New Zealand last week.
“It would have been hard work having to come home then go all the way back over there the following week so we see it as a bonus, but it’s a bonus we need to make the most of.
“There’s no point having a home final if we aren’t going to make the most of that opportunity.”
Chatfield refused to draw any comparisons with the Vixens team that last won the minor premiership in 2009 with twelve wins from 13 games before going on the win the premiership with a 58-43 victory over the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic at Hisense Arena.
“We’re a very different make up in our side this year compared to last time we won,” the captain said.
“We were easily the strongest team that year: we lost one game for the whole year and dominated the season, very similar to Queensland last year.
“For us this year we had a great start, we had a bit of a lull mid-season then we’ve managed to pick it back up again.
“No team has dominated the whole season this year, it’s been so up in the air which makes it exciting for the league and the fans but it makes it very tough for players to know where everything is going to finish.”
With the loss of co-captain Sharelle McMahon to pregnancy on the eve of the season, many pundits had written off the Vixens for 2012, a position that Chatfield and team mates welcomed going into this year’s competition.
It was only after six consecutive victories to start the season that the Vixens started to convince others of their premiership credentials.
“I think everyone everywhere has underestimated us and our team list and there were the pre-season dramas with Julie Corletto and Sharelle McMahon; it’s been nice to go under the radar and do our training and not really worry about it,” Chatfield said.
“I love the fact that we’ve been able to work our way into the position we are now and haven’t let all the people pull us down along the way.”
Chatfield believes that her side’s final two games of the season against the Central Pulse and Southern Steel have best prepared the team for Sunday’s major semi-final against the Mystics, an opponent they lost to in Round 8, 49-45 .
“For us, playing against two New Zealand teams in the last two games has been pretty important in our preparation for the Mystics,” Chatfield said.
“We lost of them in our round game and I think the zone that they play and the New Zealand style of game probably shocked our attack end so we’ve had plenty of preparation to play against it.
“It’s given us more confidence than anything having our last few games against those two sides.”
The previous match between the Vixens and Mystics is best remembered for the game changing ‘lift’: a manoeuvre which saw Mystics defender Anna Harrison hoisted into the air to block the Vixens’ shots at goal.
Are the Vixens expecting to see the lift again?
“Of course we expect them to bring it out but our shooters are very aware of it and have plenty of things that they can bring out to stop it,” Chatfield said.
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