Hard to choose a winner in this grand contest


ANZ Championship - 2nd Semi FinalMelbourne Vixens v Queensland FirebirdsWhat a cracker of an ANZ Championship Grand Final I believe fans are in for this Sunday between the Melbourne Vixens and the Queensland Firebirds.

It’s only fitting that the 2014 season decider will be played in front of a packed Hisense Arena in Melbourne as I’ve found it tough predicting which team has a slight advantage over the other because they are two evenly matched teams right across the court.

There is also the fascinating sub plot of the two young centre court rosters pitted against each other for the first ANZ Championship title.

BurtonPhotography-6987Liz Watson and Kate Moloney from the Vixens and Kim Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson from the Firebirds, in particular, are the youngsters that have captivated the ANZ Championship crowds over the course of the year.

What is it that excites the crowd and onlookers to our great game? Their pure exuberance to the contest is one factor. They do all tend to have no fear and will contest every possession and they have also shown the way with their obvious high levels of fitness and athleticism that are really setting the new benchmarks for centre courts around the country.

They execute equally well in both attack and defence and understand that the modern game demands no less than world class skill in both areas.

You could also add Verity Simmons into the mix as a player who has taken that next step in her performance after a couple of years with West Coast Fever. She has shown the way with speed and agility to make the circle edge her own.

And then there’s Madi Robinson – young in age but so experienced in terms of her years at the top level.

Madi will definitely have an edge of experience over the others and an ability to lift her performance in pressure situations.

2014 Round 11 ANZ Championship gameThunderbirds v FirebirdsThe other fascinating match-up is between the coaches. 

Both Simone McKinnis and Roselee Jencke are products of the successful culture from the great Melbourne Blue State League Club and were teammates in Victorian and Australian teams.

They’ve been mentored as athletes by the best coaches in the world including Joyce Brown, Norma Plummer, Wilma Shakespeare and Jill McIntosh.

Both Simone and Roselee are now high performance coaches of the highest calibre. As players, both were driven and determined defenders who excelled in the pressure cooker environment of Finals.

2014 Round 12 ANZ Championship gameMelbourne Vixens v West Coast FeverThey bring this inherent history, knowledge and gut instinct to this contest on Sunday.

Roselee has a slight advantage over Simone in Finals experience and knows what it takes to win an ANZ Championship.

She has developed a team culture based on excellence and playing for each other.

Simone does have championship-winning experience, having mentored Australia’s 21/U side to the 2009 World Youth Cup.

She has carefully studied the Vixens’ failures in Finals the last two ANZ Championship seasons and put together a holistic program to address these areas.

I admire and respect them both as highly valued colleagues within our National system.

I wish them both all the very best for a clear and focused match day coaching performance.

My pick? I have to be neutral in this contest and – as Australian coach – I am required to barrack for both teams equally and so I will!

Go Aussies!

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