Donnell Wallam made one of Super Netball’s great debuts but it wasn’t enough to propel his side to victory with a pair of veteran Melbourne Vixens guaranteeing the points.
Donnell Wallam made one of Super Netball’s great debuts but it wasn’t enough to propel his side to victory with a pair of veteran Melbourne Vixens taking the points in the 70-65 win.
Wallam, who was added to the Firebirds’ roster for shooting Romelda Aiken-George – who will miss the season on maternity leave – led the home side to an early lead and helped them claw back a 15-goal margin for threaten a miraculous victory.
The Western Australian product finished with 45 points on 43/48 shooting, including two super shots, in 45 minutes on the field.
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The Vixens initially had no answers for Wallam, who looked nothing like a debutante as she demanded the ball with a solid holding game.
“Wallem adds another dimension for them and she’s done very well,” Vixens coach Simon McKinnis said.
“So we worked on every step, every pass, every minute of the game.”
But that’s what the Vixens did, with their own goalkeeper, Mwai Kumwenda adding 45 points (44/49, a super shot), while Rahni Samason was faultless on the bench, finishing with 15/15 ( two super shots) in a performance reminiscent of his debut that sank the Firebirds at Nissan Arena last year.
But it was the return of Liz Watson that made the difference between the sides, with Melbourne backing talks they will be prime minister threats again this season.
Where the Vixens were unable to put the ball on the pitch consistently last year in Watson’s absence, there was a return to normal service on Sunday, with the best wing attack in the world finishing with 22 assists and 38 assists as well as 26 center passes received in a workaholic effort.
But it’s not just the stats Watson has racked up.
With the purple army in full swing as the Firebirds led the team ranked by many as the competition favourites, the Vixens refused to panic and got back into the game with patience and composure under Watson’s guidance. .
“That’s the beauty of having a group that’s been through and played a lot of netball together,” McKinnis said.
“There’s a lot of experience individually, but they have a lot of experience playing together and in those kinds of moments – and that goes a long way.
“But certainly Lizzy, her composure, we’re really lucky in that regard.”
The Firebirds had to lament third-quarter defensive penalties that allowed the Vixens easy possession that gave them the period 25-14 and gave them a 13-point lead at the final break.
But an 8-1 run from the Firebirds – who reinjected Wallam into the game after being rested in the third quarter – meant the game was over in the thrilling final minutes of the contest and coach Megan Anderson was far from over. unhappy with the result. .
“It was a good start and I think it shows that when we do what we say we are going to do, it works and we just have to be really determined to work hard for 60 minutes, especially against a team like the Vixens who don’t turn the ball around too often,” Anderson said.
“I think there were some really promising signs from everyone there, hopefully we’ll be more consistent next week.”
Wallam has already formed a wonderful connection with Gretel Bueta and was delighted with her first start.
“I’ve been training with the Firebirds for the past few weeks now, so I felt pretty confident with the combination between Grets (Bueta) and me,” Wallam said.
“I think it’s just going to grow and I just felt comfortable playing with everyone.”
While Wallam made his Super Netball debut, Kiera Austin showed up for the Vixens for the first time, coming back from a knee injury to start the match, eventually playing 31 minutes.
MELBOURNE VIXENS 70 (Kumwenda 45, Samason 17, Austin 8).
QUEENSLAND FIRE BIRDS 65 (Wallam 45, Bueta 18, Stower 2)
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Originally published as WA star’s brilliant debut sparks comeback before Vixens shoot for first win