Darkhorses no more, the Melbourne Vixens have charged into the Suncorp Super Netball top three with a 66-50 win against the Queensland Firebirds at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
A boisterous and parochial home crowd was hushed by the Victorians who ruthlessly dismantled the best provincial netball team of the past six years.
The Vixens’ control and precision was too much for the Firebirds, with leadership pair Kate Moloney and Liz Watson owning the midcourt.
Mwai Kumwenda (41 goals at 95 per cent) and Tegan Philip (24 goals at 93 per cent) scored at will, while the Vixens defenders quietened Romelda Aiken whose 37 goals was well below her season average.
It was a rare spanking for the Firebirds, with Gretel Tippett (eight goals) benched for the first time since her Queensland debut in 2015.
The Diamonds goal attack was replaced by debutant Abigail Latu-Meafou, who looked promising in the last quarter, but by then the damage was already done.
The first quarter belonged to the Vixens in this battle between the competition’s second (Firebirds) and fourth-ranked (Vixens) teams.
Melbourne opened a gaping six-goal lead but the distinction was not always so obvious during play.
The contest between Queensland goalers Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett, and the Vixens’ Jo Weston and Emily Maddix was fascinating.
The Vixens were prepared to allow Tippett to roam, and instead focused their efforts on attacking her feeds into Aiken.
In response, Aiken began to rove in an attempt to open up space behind her.
At the other end the Vixens methodically picked the Queenslanders apart.
There was no hope of double teaming Mwai Kumwenda, with vice-captain Tegan Philip scoring 14 goals at 100 per cent for the first half.
The Firebirds were the first side to flinch when coach Roselee Jencke injected Jemma Mi Mi, in place of Erin Burger, into her midcourt but the Vixens’ superior control pushed the margin out to 10 goals at halftime.
Once the Firebirds began to wobble there was little they could do to turn back momentum.
The dominant Vixens’ midcourt never let up. Watson and Moloney poured through the centre while the hosts allowed the margin to blow out to 20 goals during a lopsided third quarter.