MELBOURNE Vixens coach Simone McKinnis is confident her players can maintain their focus for one final week and achieve their goal set pre-season of winning the ANZ Championship title.
The Vixens are chasing their second premiership when they host the Mission Queensland Firebirds at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena on Sunday afternoon and McKinnis said being in the Grand Final was one of the major pre-season goals they set themselves as a group.
“We’re exactly where we wanted to be when we started the pre-season, where exactly where we wanted to be throughout the year,” McKinnis said.
“Now it’s about grabbing hold of that opportunity and making it count.”
The Vixens gathered as a group and watched Monday night’s Preliminary Final between the Firebirds and Kia Magic and McKinnis said the result didn’t alter the way she and the players were preparing for Sunday’s decider.
“It was actually nice to know who we we’re playing because you can only go so far with your preparation,” McKinnis said.
“So we know who were playing and let’s get on with it now.”
The Vixens hold a 2-1 advantage over the Firebirds in their head-to-head showdowns this season, including winning the Major Semi-Final a week ago to claim the home court advantage for the season decider.
McKinnis said she and her coaching staff have been able to “take little bits” out of those previous meetings as they put together a game plan to deliver the Vixens second title.
“Earlier in the year we learnt a lot after that (Round 3) game when they ran over us,” McKinnis said.
“There’s not too much unknown that were coming up against, but you have to be prepared and you learn even a little bit from (Monday night). But we’ve still got to be very strong on what our game is and what we need to be doing and keep doing that really well.
“It just comes down to what happens on the day. We’ve got to be preparing and focusing to be stepping up even better than we have done previously.
“Firebirds will give it everything and they’ll never stop. We’ve got to be really strong and focused and really prepared and switched on to go from the first whistle.”
Tickets are selling fast for the all-Australian Grand Final and a capacity crowd of around 10,000 is expected to fill Hisense Arena.
Youngsters Kate Moloney and Liz Watson have become key players in the Vixens midcourt and McKinnis is confident neither will be overawed by the occasion on Sunday having watched them handle the pressure throughout the season.
“They’ve been very good. They just play the game and they love playing the game,” McKinnis said when asked how she felt Moloney and Watson would handle the build-up.
“They stepped into the Semi-Final, their first Final, and they just took it into their stride. They’re just very focused on what their job was and what they had to do.
“They’ve got good experience around them in the team which really helps in the build up this week.
“But they’re just really excited. For them, as it is for everyone, it is a great opportunity and we just want to play great netball out there.”
The Vixens will meet the Firebirds for the 2014 ANZ Championship title at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena on Sunday, June 22 at 2.15pm, local time. Tickets available here and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, SBS2 and Sky Sports.
photos Janos Schmidt