AS A COLLINGWOOD player the last two seasons, Caitlin Thwaites was on the losing end of more than a few Suncorp Super Netball contests against Melbourne Vixens.
On Sunday, the Bendigo-born and bred goal shooter was pleased to be on the winning side in a clash between the two rivals, as one of the newest members of the Vixens.
It was the new goal circle combination of Thwaites and slick goal attack Tegan Philip, which was crucial in the Vixens' 60-56 victory over Collingwood at Bendigo Stadium.
The clash was one of four played at the venue across Saturday and Sunday as part of the Bendigo Blockbuster pre-season tournament.
The Vixens claimed the honours with two wins from two games, including a 70-54 win against Queensland Firebirds on Saturday.
The Magpies, who defeated West Coast Fever 66-59 on Saturday, emerged with a 1-1 split, while the Firebirds ended the weekend winless following a Sunday loss to Fever 76-61.
The tournament certainly lived up to its 'Blockbuster' name, with more than 3500 fans turning out for Sunday's double-header.
It was the perfect homecoming for Thwaites, whose pathway to national league and international stardom kicked-off a talent identification day on court five at Bendigo Stadium.
"Coming into these pre-season games, of course we want to win, but it is really about getting those building blocks to prepare us for the season proper," she said.
"There was some really encouraging signs that came out of this weekend; we were able to grind through some of the tough pressure moments and really pull through."
Thwaites said she was relishing her semi-new pairing with Philip, having previously played together with the Diamonds.
"It looks like a lightning-fast circle with Tegan with her burners; I think we are only going to get faster when the understanding comes," she said.
The Vixens would no doubt be pleased with the performance of their latest recruit Lara Dunkley in the midcourt.
Thwaites could not have been prouder with the response to the tournament.
"It's really cool to see how many people have stepped out to support this weekend and support the Vixens," she said.
"Of course it's a little bit more special to come home to where I was discovered, out on court five - it's a 17-year full circle for me."
The Vixens will round out their pre-season commitments with a pair of games against West Coast Fever in Perth and Mandurah in a fortnight's time.
Despite a loss on Sunday, Magpies coach Rob Wright declared his side 'on-track' for the regular season opener against Sunshine Coast Lightning on April 27.
"I'm not so fussed about the results, it's nice to win games and it's good for the confidence, but it's probably more about what we have learned," he said.
"I was pleased with how we went Saturday, but probably less pleased Sunday.
"But the beauty of Sunday is we have gotten to learn some things we need to adjust.
"We lost a few players (On Sunday), so we didn't have the choices that we probably wanted, but the Vixens were very good and showed us a lot of things we will need to prevent against them going forward."
The Magpies lost joint skipper Madi Robinson in the opening minute of the final term with a knee injury, but Wright was confident there would be no complications.
The Magpies will return to Bendigo for a regular season game against West Coast Fever on May 25.
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