Not even a global pandemic could stand in the way of the Melbourne Vixens claiming the Super Netball title after a nailbiting grand final victory over the West Coast Fever.
After almost a century of days spent locked out of their home state due to COVID-19, the Vixens' 66-64 win at Brisbane's Nissan Arena secured their first championship since 2014 and sent retiring stars Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip out in celebratory style.
Nothing separated the combatants until a tense final quarter when the COVID-restricted crowd of 2061 witnessed the Vixens clinch the result on the back of pure grit.
Scores were locked with 90 seconds left before Mwai Kumwenda gave the Vixens a one-goal edge.
Then, up stepped outstanding defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix who got their fingertips to a rebound in the dying seconds that kept the Fever at bay.
Kumwenda then sent her teammates into raptures with her 47th goal for the match.
The heartbreaking loss ended a gutsy fight from the Fever who were in pursuit of a maiden championship win.
They were well served by shooter Jhaniele Fowler who shot 55 goals from 56 attempts and goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld, whose super shot attempt in the closing seconds almost snatched a memorable victory.
The sweat of Vixens defenders Mannix, Weston and Kate Eddy fuelled a second quarter surge that threatened to take the game away from the Fever.
The trio amassed three intercepts and five deflections between them as the minor premiers asserted themselves at the defensive end.
Despite a few moments of indecision, the Fever recomposed themselves and steamed into halftime with a one goal lead thanks to a super shot from Fowler.
Teague-Neeld and Thwaites traded super shots in the last quarter before the Vixens defenders again made all the difference.
Australian Associated Press