Souths and West Leagues both come into the historic televised Greater Open Championship on Saturday afternoon with dynasties behind them.
The two-time reigning Newcastle champions Wests are looking to make it three in 2019, while the Lions have the possibility to not only stop their rivals in their tracks, but clinch their fourth in six years in front of the camera’s this weekend.
After trailing in the top four for most of the season, West Leagues claimed the top spot in the final round, before ousting Forsythes 56-30 to earn their place in their third consecutive decider since joining the top grade.
Their win over Forsythes sent the ladies in blue into the preliminary final against Souths, who themselves had earned a place in the match with a 43-23 win over fourth-placed Nova in the final’s opening week.
On Saturday, at Hunter Sports High due to wet weather, Souths stunned Forsythes and the league to confirm their sixth-consecutive final.
It was a moment that even Wests coach Tracey Baggs admitted she wasn’t completely expecting.
“I went and watched the Forsythes-Souths game and quickly had to turn my attention to Souths,” she said. “Souths have been awesome the last few games, though that’s no means a shock. Souths have been really playing themselves down.”
The four-goal win for the Lions lines up a third meeting between Souths and Baggs’ championship outfit. It’s a rivalry the Wests coach is well-versed in, and she’s expecting nothing but a “massive” match on Saturday afternoon.
“They’re a formidable team, regardless of who they send out on Saturday,” she said.
“Souths are a smart team too, and they have a lot of support. That will be a big part of the game tomorrow, the sideline support. We’re both big clubs and there’s going to be a lot of people pushing us. It’s going to be a big day.”
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The usual big day of a grand final is being bolstered even further this weekend. When the first whistle goes off, the NBN cameras will flick on, televising the championship matchup to hosts of viewers online.
While it’s a momentous occasion for netball in Newcastle and the Hunter to have the stream, and televised highlights package, Baggs revealed she has told her first-seed squad to wash the thought of the cameras from their minds.
“It’s daunting, a lot of players haven’t experience this level of media attention before, so we just want to keep our players focused on the game as much as possible, and not have it all take over,” Baggs said.
“It’s been great to have all this coverage and attention too though, it’s something I never thought would happen in my time, and it has. It’s wonderful for the girls.”
While two coaches going head to head for the year-end title may not find much to agree on ahead of the final clash, the historic moment for the Open Championship is something that Souths boss Trude Yen agrees on wholeheartedly.
“It’s a very big deal, everyone is excited to get going, and we’ve been given a rundown on the filming, post and pre-match interviews, and all that kind of thing,” Yen said.
- Read: ‘These girls are born to win’: Souths book sixth straight final appearance
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Like Baggs, however, she’s told her squad to put the camera out of their minds when it comes time for the first centre. Everything that matters for the Lions in their quest for the 2019 crown and a fourth title in six years, is out on the court.
“The team is feeling really confident, it’s going to be a really good game no matter what happens,” she said. “The grand final is always a wonderful environment, and in the netball scene it’s always such an exciting time.”
For Yen, who has helmed the Souths squad for more than half a decade during their dynasty of making deciders, knows this is another big moment.
“We’re looking for our fourth, and we haven’t really though about anything else in regards to the final. We’re concentrating on ourselves and we want to win. We already have our three titles, two undefeated, so we know we are a great team,” she said.
“This is our sixth in a row and we’re here again, so we’re going to enjoy it. We’re Souths Lions, we deserve to be here. We’re going to go out and give it our best, just like we have all the way through the season. I have no doubt the girls will do that again.”
The Greater Open Championship grand final will begin from 2.30pm on Saturday, September 7 at the National Park Netball Courts. Nine-NBN will be providing a livestream of the game, as well as a one-hour highlight replay on TV a week later.