New look Vixens: no half measures

Southern sojourn: former Queensland Firebird Shannon Eagland is a key recruit for the Melbourne Vixens.ONLY New Zealand stragglers Southern Steel and Canterbury Tactix have made more personnel changes for the 2013 ANZ Championship season than the Melbourne Vixens, the beaten grand finalists who will start with six recruits in their squad of 12, new coach Simone McKinnis and the return to the shooting circle of favourite daughter Sharelle McMahon.

Final team lists were released on Thursday, with the 49 changes the highest number in league history. It includes seven extra contracts of the maximum 10 available to the five New Zealand teams under the new collective bargaining agreement that also lifts the salary cap to $380,000. Negotiations for the next Australian CBA are continuing.

Jamaican giant Jhaniele Fowler will make her debut as one of eight changes to the Steel’s expanded gang of 14, while the Tactix have seven new players out of 13. Equal with 2011 grand final pair the Queensland Firebirds and Northern Mystics are the Vixens, who lost this year’s decider 41-38 to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic.

In are Firebirds trio Amy Steel, Elissa Macleod – both native Victorians – and Shannon Eagland, plus foundation Vixen and former West Coast Fever captain Jo Curran, and local pair Erin Hoare (a 193-centimetre goaler from Geelong) and Kate Moloney (a 19-year-old midcourter).

The biggest loss is that of Diamonds defender Julie Corletto, who has defected to the Northern Mystics to join her basketballer husband Daryl in Auckland, where the Vixens play their opening-round match on March 25. Underperforming shooter Kate Beveridge has joined Perth, midcourter Chelsey Tregear has retired and Ashlee Howard, Kara Richards and Sarah Wall were axed.

McMahon, the former Australian captain, resumes for what will be her first match in almost two years, having ruptured her Achilles tendon in 2011 and given birth to son Xavier in September. The 35-year-old’s pre-season training program is being tailored accordingly.

The most settled line-up is the Fever’s, under former national coach Norma Plummer, which now has a super-sized attack end with Beveridge joining Caitlin Bassett and Cath Cox. Among five squad changes, the Magic have lost goal attack Julianna Naoupu from their premiership starting seven, but gained Ellen Halpenny from the Tactix.

The Vixens’ first home game is against the Thunderbirds at Hisense Arena on March 31.

Melbourne Vixens, 2013: Madison Browne, Tegan Caldwell, Bianca Chatfield, Johannah Curran, Shannon Eagland, Erin Hoare, Karyn Howarth, Elissa Macleod, Sharelle McMahon, Geva Mentor, Kate Moloney, Amy Steel.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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