Central are poised to put the icing on a perfect season when they meet Mainland in the Beko Netball League Grand Final in Auckland on Sunday.
Last year’s beaten finalists are confident that what’s gone before – where they remained untouched through the regular season after posting 10 wins from 10 outings – will stand them in good stead to get the job done.
``Finals can do funny things to players…they can get all freaked out and think they need to do something different,’’ Central coach Natalie Milicich said.
``So, I’ve just reminded them that we don’t need to do anything different, that we need to just think about all the positive things that we’ve done, how well we’ve won our games and that we should be going in with that confidence.’’
With five back from last year’s campaign, including Karin Burger and Sheridan Bignall from this year’s Pulse line-up, there’s a solid core of experience who are fired up to go one step better than 2016.
Mainland pushed Central the closest during the season, coming within three goals in their first match-up and because of what’s at stake can be expected to throw in a strong challenge this weekend.
After being elevated to the Tactix during the season, 1.94m Ellie Bird is expected to play some part for Mainland and her influence will be a factor. With the towering shooter likely to get game time across both teams, just how much time she plays in the Grand Final remains up in the air.
The Tactix play at the same venue just prior to the Grand Final, players being allowed 90 minutes of playing time a day.
Having dominated the competition, Milicich is mindful, however, that one-off matches don’t always follow to script.
``This is the time to put our money where our mouth is, time for us to get on with the job because this is what we’ve worked really hard for so we should be going in confidently,’’ she said.
``However, although we won 10 out of 10 during the regular season, it’s really important that we remind ourselves that it’s just another game and it’s not a game that they’re going to roll over and let us win either. They’re going to come out wanting it as much as us.
``It’s down to one game now and it’s an even playing field. How we’ve got there and the results we’ve got to get there completely don’t matter anymore.’’
Leaving her family behind in Auckland to take up the dual role of Beko coach and Zone Performance Manager for Netball Central in Wellington, Milicich feels well vindicated with her decision and is just as excited as her players about their Grand Final opportunity.
``I needed to make the most of this opportunity and with sacrificing what I have, I’ve got total trust that we can do this because we’ve ticked all our boxes,’’ she said.
``I got the team very fit ahead of the season and what we’ve really worked on since is the skill level and they have become a clean and very skilful team.
``Hopefully, the learnings and what they’re putting out there will be the difference. We’re normally a very tidy team and don’t make a lot of errors. The improvement in their skill level has been amazing and that’s where they’ve grown the most.’’