The Magic have never beaten the Vixens in Melbourne.
Photo: Getty Images
After 65 regular season games and three nail-biting finals, it comes down to one match between the Melbourne Vixens and the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic to decide this year's ANZ Championship title.
Regardless of the result, history will be made at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday. If the Vixens win, they will become the first team to win multiple championships following their victory in 2009. Should the Magic triumph, they will be the first New Zealand team to claim the crown after Australian outfits dominated the first four seasons.
A Magic win will also mark the first time that a visiting team has won the grand final. In four previous season deciders, the hosts have won, and won comfortably with an average margin of 10 goals.
Adding to the weight of history against the NZ side is their record in Melbourne. The Magic have never beaten the Vixens in Melbourne during the five years of the ANZ Championship and they will be at long odds to do so on Sunday.
The Magic are no strangers to must-win games after losing their first four matches of the regular season to fall well off the pace. They turned their form around in round five with a breakthrough victory over Canterbury Tactix, beginning an 11-game winning streak that has ended with another grand final berth.
While the Magic again proved their mettle in close games with a dominant overtime win against the Mystics on Monday night, the Vixens are a formidable opponent when the going gets tough at home.
With three one-goal wins to their credit, the Melbourne side have shown that while getting close to victory is doable, actually sealing the win in front of the raucous Vixens faithful is far more difficult.
Despite the formline and stats pointing to a Vixens win on Sunday, former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis has gone with her heart and tipped the Magic to potentially give veteran shooter Irene van Dyk the chance to end her career on a high in her third grand final appearance.
"I know it's un-Australian, but I think they can [win it]. I'm not going for them - oh God, no - but I'm a commentator. I've got to be impartial," Ellis told BigPond Sports Weekend on Sunday.
However, Vixens shooter Kate Beveridge says Melbourne's fixture has done it plenty of favours with plenty of recent experience against the New Zealand teams to earn a grand final berth.
"The Kiwis play a more zone-type defence, so they deceive you into thinking there's free space and then they come through and get all their speccy intercepts," she said.
"We've been lucky because we've had our last four matches against the New Zealand sides, so we've had some pretty good practice coming in to the grand final."
The ANZ Championship grand final will be played on Sunday, July 22 at Rod Laver Arena from 2.30pm.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
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