With tears in her eyes as her glittering 18-year career wound down, Catherine Cox missed a shot in the final few minutes of Sunday’s trans-Tasman netball grand final.
It hardly mattered.
The Melbourne Vixens had already done enough to sew up their second championship, going on to score an emphatic 53-42 victory over the Queensland Firebirds at Hisense Arena.
It was a fairytale finish for the retiring goal shooter, who is stepping away from the game following a stellar 18-year career which includes two world championships and Commonwealth Games gold among 108 international appearances for Australia.
It was also her second trans-Tasman crown after captaining the NSW Swifts to a premiership in 2008.
Cox replaced Karyn Bailey for the final quarter with the Vixens leading by three goals and the home side duly lifted, producing a withering burst and the knockout blow. The 37-year-old scored six goals from seven attempts and provided a crucial steadying influence with the match in the balance.
Cox admitted to being overcome with emotion in her final match.
‘‘I looked up with a minute 26 to go, and I just lost it on the spot,’’ said Cox.
‘‘The last couple of shots – I just had tears in my eyes. But I thought ... we are up by enough now, it’s in the bag.’’
Romelda Aiken led the Firebirds’ scoring with 25 goals from 30 attempts while Amy Wild (17 from 21) was also a constant threat for the visitors.
Tegan Caldwell had a game-high 30 goals for the Vixens and Bailey scored 17 before making way for Cox.
The win added to the Vixens’ first premiership in 2009 and coach Simone McKinnis was relieved after finishing the regular season as minor premiers.
‘‘When we started this year it was all about having clinical accuracy in everything that we did,’’ she said.
‘‘There were expectations about excellence and maintaining excellence and the girls have built on that throughout the year.’’
For the Firebirds the defeat was the second consecutive grand final loss having lost to the Adelaide Thunderbirds in last season’s decider.
‘‘I think it’s actually a lot easier to lose by 10 or 11 goals than it is to lose by two goals,’’ said captain Laura Geitz. AAP