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QUT Wildcats aim for fairytale finish in HART Sapphire grand final

QUT Wildcats aim for fairytale finish in HART Sapphire grand final

The QUT Wildcats are aiming for a fairytale finish to their magical year – which saw them move from bottom of the ladder to the top spot in one incredible season – when they take on the reigning premiers, The Brisbane North Cougars, in the HART Sapphire Series grand final this Sunday, October 13 at QSNC.

This Sunday will mark the team’s first appearance in a grand final at this level.

Netball Queensland GM High Performance Richard McInnes said the team’s turnaround was a stunning result and followed a lot of hard work from across a broad team.

“This partnership between ASCC, the Queensland University of Technology and Wildcats has been an outstanding success and an example of just what can happen when organizations work together toward a common goal.,” he said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for both the university and the netball team and we can see how successful such a partnership can be with this fantastic result. Everyone involved is to be congratulated.”

QUT Wildcats coach Paula Stuart said the success was the result of a strong focus on building a positive culture as well as bringing in knowledgeable advisors from across a broad spectrum of disciplines.

“The Wildcats are a multicultural team and we wanted to create a culture that embraced all cultures and welcomed those strengths to build a positive environment for the team,” Stuart said.

“We had to find an approach that really connected with the players. I think we’ve achieved that.”

The result is particularly impressive given Stuart has only been working with the team for one season. She had been with the Wildcats briefly in 2002 and 2003 but most recently has spent the past seven years coaching a team on the Gold Coast. She was lured back to Brisbane through the promise of the partnership with the university, where Stuart also works.

“When we started talking, QUT were big believers in helping the underdogs and in giving development opportunities to players who might not have had that opportunity before.

“As soon as I heard that, from the university, I was on board. And it’s been a really fantastic partnership. They bring a lot of support through strength and conditioning and team psychology.”

There have been many challenges taking on a last-placed team, including the view, held in the broader netball community and within the Wildcats camp, that the team had become the competition’s easy beats.

“We immediately started attacking that view. We knew we needed to create that self-belief that they could win. The talent was always there, but there was some discipline missing along with that crucial self-belief,” she said.

Stuart brought in a strength and conditioning coach and delivered some hard truths to the team. She said it was a pretty tough start to the season but she refused to soften the message.

“I told them if they didn’t do the work, didn’t perform, they could be dropped. We were aiming for a top four finish and this was the way we were going to achieve it.  

“It was tough love at the start and it wasn’t until they’d played their first three or four games that they really started to believe that they could do this,” she said.

The road to the top hasn’t been a simple process. Stuart said there were many strategies and tactics that were thrown overboard as the season progressed and as the coaching staff worked to find the right approach for this particular team.

“I think we went too professional, too hard. We were overwhelming them with analysis. We recognised that straight away. Their performance started to slide. We (coaching staff) owned that and admitted to the players that that had been our mistake.

“After that we scaled it right back. We gave them snippets of analysis that they could work on in small bite-sized chunks. This approach worked much better,” she said. “What we’ve done for this team might not work for another team but it’s working for this team.”

The QUT Wildcats will play the Brisbane North Cougars on Sunday, October 13, 6:10pm at the QSNC.

THE ROAD TO THE TOP:

Round 1: DRAW: Brisbane North Cougars (63) v QUT Wildcats (63)

Round 2: WIN: Northern Rays (31) v QUT Wildcats (67)

Round 3: BYE

Round 4: WIN: CLC Tigers (50) v QUT Wildcats (56)

Round 5: LOSS: QUT Wildcats (48) v Jets Netball (56)

Round 6: WIN: USC Thunder (51) v QUT Wildcats (60)

Round 7: LOSS: QUT Wildcats (51) v Bond University Bull Sharks (53)

Round 8: LOSS: QUT Wildcats (50) v Brisbane North Cougars (62)

Round 9: WIN: QUT Wildcats (63) v Northern Rays (25)

Round 10: Bye

Round 11: WIN: Jets Netball (45) v QUT Wildcats (50)

Round 12: WIN: QUT Wildcats (56) v USC Thunder (39)

Round 13: WIN: QUT Wildcats (48) v CLC Tigers (44)

Round 14: WIN: Bond University Bull Sharks (55) v QUT Wildcats (58)

Semi-Finals: LOSS: Brisbane North Cougars (48) v QUT Wildcats (46)

Preliminary Finals: WIN: QUT Wildcats (57) v Jets Netball (43)

Grand Final: Brisbane North Cougars v QUT Wildcats

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