Premiership coach Dan Ryan said it was a dream come true to win a title in his first season as a Fever coach.
“When you first come into play as a young child, these are the moments that you think may never come, but they are the things that get you out of bed every day,” he said.
“To make it all come together like it did for us on the grand finale day, [it’s] incredible.
“I can’t believe we played our best netball under pressure from a grand final in front of 13,000 people, making history for the first time in 25 years. It’s ridiculously amazing.”
The Vixens couldn’t stop the Fever, who barely made a mistake. Fowler was incredible, especially in the third quarter where she held on to some long and high entries that would have gone out otherwise.
It would have taken a huge effort from the Vixens to turn the grand final around in the last 15 minutes, but the Fever didn’t open the door for their rivals as the home crowd lifted them to their first premiership.
Fowler, a two-time Commonwealth Games bronze medalist with Jamaica, struggled for words in the wake of the win.
“I’m full of emotion, I’m so happy with this win,” she said.
“It means a lot, knowing I’m even here alone. My family isn’t here, and being able to stand strong and have this great week behind me, and come out week in, week out, and get muscled and pushed and be able to do the holding the ball and shooting it means a lot . I’m glad I was able to cross that line today.”
For Melbourne, the contributors on target were Mwai Kumwenda with 28, Kiera Austin with 17 and Rahni Samason with two. But the Vixens were awarded 24 more penalties, while the Fever got eight more rebounds.
“Congratulations on West Coast Fever. To Dan [Ryan]to Courtney [Bruce]”You were too good today, so well deserved,” Vixens co-captain Kate Moloney said after the game.
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis complained about mistakes her side made and said the Fever wouldn’t allow them to go back into the game.
“I think our start was decent,” she said.
“I thought we were making simple mistakes, not even forced, just simple mistakes and small mistakes in precious times. That’s hard to come back from, it blew out at different stages.
“Fever played a great game, but I think we let ourselves down with some simple performances and some basic stuff, besides the defensive work of the Fever. Super disappointed, it goes without saying that if you’re playing top sport and you’re competing there, it hurts, but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved to get here.”
McKinnis added that there was still room for growth for her side into the next season and beyond.
The Fever were on the receiving end of a grand final in 2020 when they were defeated by the Vixens, and also lost the grand final in 2018 to the Sunshine Coast, but luckily for the third time on Sunday. The win was not only their first Super Netball title, but also their first domestic league trophy in their club’s history.
In the first half, West Coast seemed the more comfortable side, while Melbourne missed some opportunities to keep in touch.
With two minutes left in the second term, West Coast called a time-out. Ryan delivered the message, “Now is the time and pace for us,” calling for aggression on the attack.
This was while the Vixens wanted to see more composure from the side, which could have been related to the awarding of 39 penalties to Fever’s 24.
The Fever put their intention into the decision early on, finishing the first quarter with an 18-14 lead. They showed good team connection and attacking pressure.
With just over five minutes left of the quarter, West Coast called a time-out. Ryan told his players they’d had their fair share of defensive ball and turnover, but they had to hold on and make it count.
In the other group, Vixen’s co-captain Liz Watson told the squad that they’d weathered a few storms so far, but they needed to take control of the game.
The message came across clearly to Fever, who began to pile up the goals on the scoreboard.
Then, with just 36 seconds left, Melbourne called a time-out to try and stop the flow of goals against them, the main message being to make sure they found their way and made use of options.
West Coast finished the quarter with two of three super shots, Melbourne one of two.
Perth was granted hosting rights before the final series started, when Netball Australia sold the hosting rights for the grand final to the highest bidder. That decision was criticized at the time by the Australian Netball Players Association. It said players were “devastated” by the call and were not consulted.
But The Fever won their grand semi-final against Melbourne, making them the first club to advance to the grand final – which would have given them hosting rights under the old system anyway.
Chief executive Kelly Ryan defended the decision to sell hosting rights to the grand finale, made with just two rounds left in the home and away season. She said it was part of the plan to ensure the sport is sustainable – Netball Australia revealed a $4.4 million loss over the past fiscal year.
“We understand the financial position we are in and we have been very transparent about it,” Ryan said in a statement at the time.
“We are not on the brink of financial ruin. We know what it takes to protect the future of Netball Australia.”
Melbourne claimed the 2020 championship but surprisingly finished last on the ladder last season and then regained top spot with the club’s third minor premiership this year.
In the regular season, the Vixens defeated the Fever in two games before turning the tables in the grand semi-final, with the Fever claiming a 71-62 win over Melbourne.
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