The West Coast Fever’s heartbreaking three-point preliminary final loss against the Giants (61-64) marked an end of an era, with coach Stacey Marinkovich finishing up her tenure at the Fever.
Marinkovich has been head coach of the Fever since the 2014 season, after spending two years as an assistant coach under Norma Plummer.
In her first season as head coach, the Fever finished ninth. Then in her second season, the Fever jumped to third, after remaining undefeated until round 10.
Although emotional there was a sense of pride from Marinkovich. With her side reaching a preliminary final despite starting the season on negative 12 points and relocating to Queensland midseason, it hasn’t been an easy season but the team never gave up.
“You look back on the season and it’s the most successful season that Fever has had in terms of wins.
“When you look at the predicament we were in at the beginning of the season, I’m so incredibly proud of the girls.
“Not once did they back away from taking this season on and when everyone ruled us out at the very beginning of the season. We came out firing and we fought and we fought for a long time and we’ve been under pressure for a long time to be able to get to where we got.
“Our first aim was to get into finals, we won a final and you know we’re two games short of a premiership.
“The Giants were the better team on the day, but my initial reaction to the group is I couldn’t be more prouder of everything they tried to accomplish this season.”
It’s been a long road to get the Fever are from where they were when Marinkovich first took over in 2014.
Marinkovich said she’s been lucky to have the people around her at the club.
“The journey that I’ve had with this team and this club and my staff that I get to work with day in day out.
“Their friends, their mates and they’ve always had my back and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the people that I work with and the girls have been incredible.
They’ve bought into everything I’ve tried to bring into the program, and they’ve actually made it so much bigger than I initiated.
“The club is in a great place, they’ll learnt from this experience it hurts but to see what we’ve been able to create from when I came in, very little wins and no finals to being a constant performer up in the top.
“I’m really pleased with as a club what we’ve been able to accomplish together.”
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Marinkovich leaves a fantastic legacy behind but one of her favourite moments is walking into a packed out RAC Arena.
“I think to be able to walk into RAC arena to see the Green Army, to see the state that is fully involved in netball and to see players be absolute role models.
“We’ve become a force across SSN and respected across the competition. I think to walk away to know that we built it and we’ve had our highs and our lows but we rode them out and we rode them out together.
“To walk in to see an army of supporters that back this group of girls and anyone that comes into the group is there because they’re good people, they’re the right people and they work well together.”
When Courtney Bruce first started playing under Marinkovich she was just 18 and now she’s an Australian Diamonds.
Seeing players like Bruce develop not just as a player while being at the club is as people is something that Marinkovich will cherish.
“I think that’s the best part about sport, you come in and they’re people as well as players and to see them evolve on and off the court.
“To see their leadership grow to see their skills improve. There is no greater feeling to see people growing and finding their optimal performance out on the court and just finding their real-life balance off it.”
The culture at the Fever this year has been something that shines through in the side’s performances out on court, Marinkovich said it’s something that the playing group has been working on for a few years.
“The culture that we’ve been growing hasn’t just happen this season but it’s been building over a number of years and you can’t just make it happen in one go.
“The way in which the girls communicate they are so open and honest with each other, they keep pushing and driving each other.
“The other thing is we learn as a group is to enjoy the moments and celebrate the wins that we actually had and when you’ve got the enjoyment and the recognition of everyone’s doing it’s a pretty happy place to be around.”
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