In their four meetings in 2018, Fusion Heat and St Collegians have never been separated by more than five points.
So it’s only appropriate that the two powerhouses of Dubbo Netball should meet in Saturday’s Rawson Homes Premiership A Grade grand final.
And it’s a game that could come down to one key match-up: Britt Hill and Abbie Merritt.
One: a high-flying goal defence. The other: a veritable sharpshooter.
Both have been singled out by the opposite team as a major threat. The pressure will be on, but it’s unlikely either of the seasoned competitors will show any cracks.
“Britto is a floater which is hard to combat,” Saints shooter Jess Mawbey said.
“It’s a personal skill you develop. Not everyone can be a floater and her jumping skills are really strong.
“She shuts down a lot of our attacking ends [but] their shooters are fantastic as well.”
Heat captain Tash Robinson said it would take a whole team defensive effort to shut down Merritt.
“She can just sink a ball from anywhere,” Robinson said.
“Britt does put a lot of pressure on the shot … but we can’t just leave it to one person.
“We've got to make sure we stop the ball outside the circle, rather than wait for Abbie to get it inside and take a shot.”
The Heat have enjoyed a near-perfect run, undefeated for almost two seasons (including two wins over the Saints) before falling at the major semi-final.
Collegians were the side to deliver that blow.
The key to that victory was focusing more strength in their attacking third. It’s a strategy they’ll be aiming to replicate on Saturday.
They’ll no doubt be helped by the absence of Heat’s Ally McLean.
“That does leave a bit of a hole in our attack but Izzy Attwater, she’s 14 years old and she has stepped up to fill those shoes,” Robinson said.
“She’s done a great job so far so she’s only going to better with experience and that’s what the grand final is going to give her. We’re confident in her.”
Heat faced clubmates Fusion Giants in last weekend’s preliminary final, eventually running out 63-39 victors.
“The first half of that game they gave us hell,” Robinson said. “For those young girls to come out and put on a performance like they did was amazing but in turn it was awesome that we were able to pull ourselves out of that first half slump.
“To come away with such a big scoreline at the end has put us in a good position with momentum going into the final.”
Saints, on the other hand, have built momentum gradually; a slow burn rather than a raging fire.
“Everyone pulls their weight on our team … it doesn’t matter who’s here and who’s not … everyone is really strong and we work really well together as a team,” Mawbey said.
“I think it will be a really close game the whole time and someone will get on top right at the end – if not in overtime … I’m really excited to see how it goes.”
“Win or lose we’re super proud of our team,” Robinson said.
“It’s definitely a big step in the right direction for netball, having such competitive teams at the top. Hopefully [we’ll] draw a bit of a crowd!”
The game starts at the Nita McGrath Courts at 2.45pm.