By Tara Murray
The midfield battle looms as a key as the Northern Knights and Calder Cannons face off in the NAB League Girl’s grand final.
Having won through tough respect preliminary finals, the two teams will face each other for the first time this season on Saturday at 2pm at Ikon Park.
While the Knights have been one of the favourites all season, the Cannons have come home in sparkling form to seal a grand final berth.
This season is the first season the competition has had a finals series, something both clubs said had been beneficial for the competition.
For the Knights it will be their second grand final in as many years.
Skipper Gabby Newton said the disappointment of last year when they lost to the Geelong Falcons was a motivating factor.
“We know what it is like to be on the other end of the equation on grand final day,” she said.
“We definitely don’t want that to happen again, it’s extra fuel to fire.
“I think this year it has been more of a slow build up of our game, we probably weren’t playing the way we wanted to at the start. Eventually now, we’re getting into the later stages of the season, we’re playing our game.
Knights coach Marcus Abney-Hastings said having been in a grand final situation before, the group knows what to expect come Saturday.
He said the biggest change with his side in the last two years, has been the ability to add more layers to their game.
“Last year we were really good with our contested inside ball and could really match the good teams with that.
“This year, we added some layers to the game on the outside with the run and carry.
“That’s been a two year journey, it’s taken a long time.”
For the Cannons, they will be looking for their second premiership in three years.
Cannons captain Georgia Patrikios was part of that first premiership.
She said while it shocked several people the side had made the grand final this year, within the club itself they were confident of getting that far.
Patrikios said it was a really different feeling this time round, compared to 2017.
“This time it’s a grand final, last time we just finished on top of the ladder,” Patrikios said.
“I think it will be fresh for a lot of the girls, new experience for a lot of us.”
Cannons assistant coach Troy Newton said biggest thing they had been pleased about this season was the development of the playing group.
“The thing we’re most pleased about, how far the players have come since we started training in November and their development,” Newton said.
“I think we have 11 16 year-olds on our list, seven or eight have played every game and have been among our best players.
“We’ve been able to develop all our players and make them multi positional players, which has really helped our team. We’re really excited about this week, to see what the players bring and we’re confident.”
Both coaches said they believed the game would be won in the midfield, with a fast start also important.
Abney-Hastings said in this competition, if you got off to a good start a side was likely to hold on.
Newton and Patrikios pointed out Nell Morris-Dalton, Britney Gutknecht, Alana Barba and Georgie Prespakis as the players to watch out for from their respective teams.
While Newton and Patrikios will be enemies on Saturday, the two are likely to be teammates in the coming weeks.
Both have been named in the initial Vic Metro squad for the under-18 national championships.
The first training session for the squad is on Sunday, leaving little time to celebrate any premiership win.