Thursday night looked like a training jog for West Coast Fever who spoiled Melbourne Vixen Mwai Kumwenda’s century milestone with a 64-50 Super Netball win in Brisbane.
The Fever were challenged only in patches by the Vixens who now run the risk of falling from premiers in 2020 to the wooden spoon in 2021 after their ninth loss from 11 games.
A 14-goal margin in the rescheduled round eight fixture failed to reflect the dominance of the West Australians who rested captain Courtney Bruce and goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld for the closing minutes of the final term.
It was a numbers game for the Fever who tightened their grip on a top-four spot and remain genuine top two contenders despite being docked 12 points for salary cap breaches in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Jhaniele Fowler sank 58 goals while the slick attacking duo Verity Charles and Teague-Neeld had a combined 57 feeds.
Bruce took on one of the best shooters in the competition in Kumwenda (35 goals) and finished with a whopping nine gains.
“I was a bit rusty on the shot but we’ve got Jhaniele back at shooter which is an amazing asset to our team,” Teague-Neeld said.
The Vixens lost defender Jo Weston to a leg injury in the fourth quarter but have set themselves to rise from last position on the ladder.
“When you’re a Victorian team and you represent the Vixens you’re expected to go out there and make the finals,” captain Kate Moloney said.
“We haven’t performed and we haven’t been playing the class of netball that these teams in the top four have.
“We expect more of ourselves and hopefully we can have three really strong games to finish this season.”
While the stage had been set for Kumwenda to make a statement in her 100th game, Fowler was on another level.
Gifted a mountain of ball by Fever teammate Charles, Fowler had 36 goals at halftime and was on track to break her own single-game record of 70.
The Jamaican national team captain had to keep her involvement high, for the Fever were down a third shooting option after the late withdrawal of Sasha Glasgow due to a foot injury.
It made little difference as the Fever had control of the game by halftime.
What kept the contest alive were the scattering of individual battles between some of the competition’s elite players.
Centres Kate Moloney (Vixens) and Jess Anstiss (Fever) were at each other like welterweight boxers.
They chased and hounded each other all night, with Anstiss steamrolling the Vixens captain during the third quarter.