13 Oct Can the Cougars claim their 14th crown?
Brisbane North Cougars coach Liz White is readying her troops for her 14th grand final in 18 years of coaching a state-level team.
In military terms she’s a four-star general with the most experience of all the coaches at the state level.
But for White, this doesn’t mean much. Every grand final is unique and every time is like the first time.
“I don’t think about it as potentially winning the 14th premiership. It’s a grand final and every grand final is brand new and brings something different – the team has different goals, there’s a different atmosphere, and this year it’s a different competition. Every grand final is a brand new challenge,” she said.
White has run the team through a regular training session this week, with the usual drills and exercises. Everything is the same as it has been throughout their very successful season, which ended with 10 wins, two draws, and zero losses. One of those draws was against the QUT Wildcats, who the Cougars will face off against in the grand final.
“On the day, it’s anyone’s game,” she said. “We are not taking anything for granted. The Wildcats are a formidable challenge. We’ve had some close and exciting games. It will come down to which team puts their best foot forward and is able to counteract the opposition the best,” she said.
When it comes to strategizing, White is without peer, but says her team is going to concentrate on playing their own game.
“I think that we have to play our game and play to our strengths. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up focusing on your opposition and worrying about what they’re going to do and at the end of the day we need to do what we do well.
“If we do that, hopefully the goals will keep ticking over and if we work hard to force our opposition to make some mistakes that we can capitalise on, then that’s when we have to seize our opportunities,” she said.
When it comes to the grand final nerves, White is coy about her years of experience giving the Cougars an edge over grand final debutantes, the QUT Wildcats.
“It wouldn’t be realistic to say that nerves don’t play a role. The grand final is more exciting and there’s more atmosphere. You’re playing for more, the stakes are higher, than with a regular game. But you also have to keep your team grounded and keep them doing well what they do well.
“It all comes down to mental capacity of the players and how the players adapt; sometimes you have a younger player who deals with those things well and you could have an older player who won’t. It’s really down to each player’s mental strength,” she said.
For White, it’s a matter of moving through the process, checking things off a list and making sure she’s prepared the girls as well as she can.
“Netball is a team game and my job as coach is to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s up to the players to buy into the team ethos and the strategies.
“The minute they go onto the court it’s down to the players and you have to hope you’ve prepared them well enough for that encounter. This time I really hope we haven’t left any stone unturned. It’s having confidence in the players and them having confidence in each other. And on the day, it’s who can perform.”
On paper, the Cougars have a strong line-up that includes Firebirds Macy Gardner and Maddie Hinchliffe. But White is not relying on pedigree.
“The Wildcats have got some amazing athletes and some amazing players. Aleesha is not a contracted player but she’s worth many goals to them. Every player in their team deserves respect. Every player has brought something special to that team and that cannot be underestimated,” she said.
On the day, does White think her attacking end will win the day, or will it be more about limiting the Wildcats, focusing on a stronger defensive strategy?
“My defence unit has been playing extremely well and that’s got us over the hump, but when our attack is on fire we’re extremely good. Let’s hope both are firing on the day!”
The Road to the Grand Final:
Round 1: DRAW: Cougars 63 v QUT Wildcats 63
Round 2: WIN: Cougars 60 v Jets 48
Round 3: WIN: USC Thunder 53 v Cougars 60
Round 4: WIN: Northern Rays 28 v Cougars 61
Round 5: WIN: Cougars 59 v Bond University Bull Sharks 49
Round 6: WIN: CLC Tigers 45 v Cougars 60
Round 7: BYE
Round 8: WIN: QUT Wildcats 50 v Cougars 62
Round 9: WIN: Jets 41 v Cougars 60
Round 10: WIN: USC Thunder 38 v Cougars 75
Round 11: DRAW: Bond University Bull Sharks 55 v Cougars 55
Round 12: WIN: Cougars 67 v CLC Tigers 44
Round 13: WIN: Cougars 90 v Northern Rays 25
Round 14: BYE
Semi Finals: WIN: Cougars 48 v Wildcats 46