A home grand final, here we come. Our hard-fought 56-50 win over the Northern Mystics in the major semi-final last Sunday at Rod Laver Arena has secured a home grand final in two weeks time.
We trailed through the first half, but our low error third quarter set up a dominant finish. At the Vixens this year, we have been renowned for our comebacks no matter what teams have thrown at us. And the weekend was just another example. It was crucial that we held our nerve. We've all seen athletes or teams who were favourites seemingly self implode when the pressure goes on. There has been plenty of examples of AFL teams going out in "straight sets" after finish at or near the top of the ladder. I'm glad we held it together and kept on fighting.
The Mystics now get a second chance against the winner of the minor semi-final Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic who will fight it out next weekend in New Zealand for a spot in the grand final.
So either way, it is going to be Australia (the Vixens) playing New Zealand (the Mystics or the Magic) in the grand final. I'm hoping that means even greater support here.
The game on the weekend had some amazing highlights. We saw the "lift" or the newly named "Harrison hoist'', named after the Mystics defender Anna Harrison. This time our shooters were on their guard and out-smarted the opposition with a quick double play into a new position. This threw out the Mystics' defenders timing to set up the new manoeuvre. That appeared to frustrate the Mystics players.
We saw one of their star defenders Kayla Cullen disciplined by being "stood off" the court for back-chatting the umpire. Now if that's not a lesson to keep smiling at the umpires no matter the call, I don't know what is.
We also saw one of the biggest head collisions in netball between two Mystics mid-court players. It knocked them both to the ground for several terrifying minutes. I have to admire how tough the girls were. They both picked themselves up and maintained their intensity which is a great example of the physicality of our game and the toughness of the females that play. I also loved the fact that our Vixens physiotherapist immediately and without hesitation put aside team rivalries and went to their aid. Ultimately, we wanted to win the game. Badly. But never enough to not help someone who had been injured or to wish an injury upon them. I was proud to watch Steve our physio in that situation.
So we have a grand final to play in a little under two weeks. But until then we are going about business as normal. Yes, we have a weekend off, but we will structure our week as if we are playing. It is an advantage to be able to rest our bodies from a physical weekend clash, but at the same time we don't want to lose our momentum and intensity we have rolling. Training hard but resting up is a tough balance to strike.
That is the balance that must be struck all the way through the season. But in the next two weeks the stakes are higher and in a way, with no game, the challenge is a little harder. There are two ways we'll do it. First, it will be up to each individual player to keep their mind on the job. Not get overawed by the occasion and the build up. And be ready to go mentally on grand final day. The second is really up to the Vixens support staff. Although the players take a level of responsibility for our training, we are ultimately told what to do with our training and recovery by the coaching staff in conjunction with the sports science team that assists the Vixens. I trust their judgement. So far this year they've been spot on with the way they've managed to help us strike that balance. And the way I feel at the moment, I think we're currently striking the right balance. I just wish grand final day would hurry up and arrive!