Vixens survive Firebirds Super scare

Damien Stannard |

The Melbourne Vixens have defied an electrifying Super Netball debut from Donnell Wallam to record a 70-65 victory against the Queensland Firebirds at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena.

Some last-quarter heroics from the Firebirds failed to claw back a 13-goal three-quarter time deficit to the Vixens, who were wooden spooners last year but fancied by many to reach the grand final in 2022.

Wallam was one of the major contributors to a high-scoring and thrilling game, sinking 43 goals from 48 attempts in her first Australian national league performance.

The Vixens, however, were steadier and cleaner. They absorbed every blow from Wallam and fired back a 25-goal third quarter to quieten the pro-Queensland home crowd.

Shooter Mwai Kumwenda contributed every quarter to finish with 44 goals at 89 per cent accuracy.

Melbourne star Liz Watson’s first game back from last year’s injury-forced absence with 38 feeds and 22 goal assists was another reason for the opening-round win.

Vixens coach Simone McKinnis lauded the experience provided by the side’s engine room that included Watson, Kate Moloney and Jo Weston.

“It’s super important,” McKinnis told Fox Netball.

“They’ve come through the system with me and grown.

“You’ve got the Diamonds captain there (Watson) now, they’ve been in every situation and they’ve been there together.”

Rarely has there been a more anticipated Super Netball debut than that of Wallam, the 28-year-old who averaged 43 goals per game last year for the Leeds Rhinos in the UK Superleague.

She backed herself, first in the UK, then to earn a full-time contract in Queensland, well away from her family in Harvey in south west Western Australia.

The former basketballer looked instantly at home, fed precisely by the Firebirds’ experienced attackers.

She had 22 goals at 95 per cent by halftime as the Vixens thwarted the Firebirds’ energy to lead by two goals.

The problem for the home side was the mountain of penalties conceded (87-69) in defence where Kumwenda and Rahni Samason (15 goals) ran riot.

On the same court where she made her dazzling debut last year, Sahmason took the game away from the Firebirds with a near perfect third term that included a pair of two-point super shots.