Northern Hawks, always the hunter, are preparing to be the hunted on Saturday.
Twelve months since back-to-back grand final losses, the roles appear reversed.
For not only the Hawks but AYC-Friends Arrows, it’s a strange dynamic to grasp in their third straight State League netball grand final.
Coach Ruth Tuohy said the heart-wrenching defeats has motivated the Hawks.
“Because we’ve learned something from every year, this year has felt very different to how we’ve set up,” she said. “Our focus hasn’t been on getting to this game and this is where it will end.
“Previous years, we have been chasing Arrows, all because they have been the bar.
“This year we realised we had the ability to beat them.
“We’ve changed it around, made it about us, what we’re capable of doing and how we have different things up our sleeve to counteract anything that they throw at us.”
Northern Hawks won 13 in a row before a return season match with Arrows at the Silverdome ended the streak.
A second loss for the year was against Arrows six weeks later in the semi-final clash.
But Tuohy was unperturbed the Hawks took the longer route to the decider.
This comes after the last year’s grand finalists ended Arrows incredible 64-game winning run in the finals that stretched back to the 2015 premiership season.
“We’re better at controlling the nerves of finals and those moments how to take them now,” Tuohy said.
“We’re working better as a team – not saying we haven’t before, but we’re just ready and this year the girls have been focused and dedicated since the start of the season.
“The games that we’ve played and the reward that we’ve had has shown that.
“We’ve had some challenges and some hiccups, but we’re learning every time, we’re taking something away and building again.”
Arrows coach Andrew Jackson can’t find much fault with Hawks either.
The man who has delivered three titles in his five seasons at the helm has unabashedly labelled Tuohy’s charges strong favourites.
“The last couple of years we had come in as favourites – I don’t think we are so much this year,” Jackson said.
“We lost a few players and Hawks finished top.
“Even though we knocked them off in the semi, they should go in as favourites.
“I don’t think there is quite the expectations this year on us to win. A lot of people didn’t expect us to make finals, let alone the grand final.
“There certainly isn’t any extra pressure for a fourth.”
Arrows started the season slowly, but finished just two wins behind Hawks in the regular season.
Jackson was not surprised by the rise. He planned for it.
Circumstances out of his control gave rival finals contenders false hope.
“That was always the plan: just to make finals and see what happens,” Jackson said.
“We expected a few players to come back through the year that weren’t available at the start. It was a case of winning as many as we can early, make sure we make finals and go from there.”
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