It’s not the grand final match-up the Dubbo Demons expected, but nothing has changed in the build-up to Saturday’s decider clash with the Bathurst Giants.
Co-captain Caroline McGrath admitted after her side’s surprise major semi-final win over the Bathurst Bushrangers they started planning for a rematch on the biggest day of the Central West AFL season.
However, the Bushrangers suffered an upset loss to the Giants in the preliminary final, meaning a new name will go on the silverware this year.
Getting the name on the trophy, even when the Bushrangers were marching towards the minor premiership with just one loss to their name, was something the Demons always thought they were capable of.
“We beat the Bushrangers in the first or second game of the year so really from the start we thought we had a chance if we put it all together,” McGrath said.
“We had new players this year and young players who have developed and then in the first final when we beat the Bushrangers again it felt good and we really thought we could do it again in the final.”
However the Bushrangers loss to the Giants makes it a grand final at Bathurst few expected.
“It was a shock. We were getting ready for a rematch but it’s a pleasant surprise,” McGrath added.
The Demons were beaten in last year’s grand final by the Bushrangers and many of the players from that side will be in action again on Saturday.
They’ve had the better of the Giants every time they’ve played this year and McGrath said starting well on Saturday is vital to beating the Bathurst side in the one that matters.
“We’re going to go hard and the key will be that first 10 or 15 minutes,” McGrath said.
“Getting on the scoreboard first and then not going away from our game. We just want to stay cool, calm, and collected.”
To ensure the Demons do start the better, players like McGrath will be key.
While Lauren Hazell and Emily Warner have hogged all the headlines in recent years, they have been joined as standouts in the side by a number of others this season.
The lively McGrath provides plenty of energy in the midfielder while teenager Elouise Hiller-Stanbrook has developed into a vital figure in the ruck.
“It’s a big challenge,” McGrath said of winning the midfield and moving the ball forward.
“Last few weeks we’ve really started getting it together and Elouise has played really well and the midfield has worked well also.
“If we can win the ball out of there then we’ve got total confidence in our forwards.”
Rightly so, as well, with Hazell booting a competition-best 56 goals this season while Warner is second with 25.
Danita Laine is the Giants’ leading goal-scorer, having booted 19 this year.
Shutting the likes of Laine down and winning the ball back is something the Demons are also confident of doing.
While the Giants are adept at taking marks, due to the sheer number of agile netball players in the side, the Dubbo outfit has the edge when it comes to physicality.
“They’re good at taking marks so we’ve got to combat that and man-up and just stay on top of them,” McGrath said.
“We can do that with hard tackles and that’s a good element for us. There’s a few girls who don’t mind those hard tackles and the Giants can get rattled.”
Saturday’s grand final at Bathurst’s George Park 2 starts at 12.45pm.