The Giants have been away from home for six weeks, and across five states in that time. They’ve battled injuries, losses and travel, but despite that, have finished atop the Suncorp Super Netball ladder in 2021.
A clutch win against the West Coast Fever in the last match of the regular season, 75-73, sealed the Giants place as minor premiers, a feat they last achieved in 2018.
Coach Julie Fitzgerald believes that her team is ready for finals this time, after missing for the past two seasons with a straight-sets exit in 2018.
“I’m so proud of them, I think they’ve had resilience I didn’t think they were capable of,” Fitzgerald said Thursday.
The Giants have been forced to move regularly this season, trying to stay a step ahead of COVID-19 border restrictions with the rest of Super Netball.
“All the moves, the limited time that we’ve had every time we’ve had to move, generally only had an hour or two to pack, we’ve left belongings all over Australia and waited for them to be freighted in,” the coach explained.
“Sometimes they’ve been freighted in after we’ve already left that city.”
Despite all those moves, Fitzgerald believes that the team has found an inner strength, one that belies their age and experience.
“I think they’ve been amazing with how they’ve coped with everything that’s been thrown at them this year, and particularly for a young group, I think they’ve done a great job.”
For many in the side, including budding star Amy Parmenter, it’s their first taste of finals.
“We’ve got a few young girls in the squad who also haven’t been involved in finals before, so it’s more just excitement,” Parmenter said. “We don’t really know what we’re up for, so we’re just going in excited.”
Her coach is not concerned about the fact that so many players are making their finals debut and has plenty of confidence in her charges.
“I think we’ve just got an attitude that ‘what will be will be’ and we’ll cope with whatever they throw at us,” Fitzgerald said.
“They [the players] haven’t had finals experiences, but they’ve been up against so many things that they’ve risen above, I think they’ll be fine.”
“I think there’s a level of excitement and a little bit of nerves that we haven’t had previously, but other than that, we try and stick to our regular routine, do things the same way we have for other games so that our preparation is as normal as possible,”
She knows that the finals atmosphere is different and that while preparation is the same same, the moment the whistle is blown, there is a change in the game.
“I think it’s really silly to say this is just like any other game because it’s not. You’ve got to prepare [the players] for the fact that the intensity in finals netball is a lot greater than what you face in the rounds,” the veteran coach said.
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The Giants will face cross-town rivals the NSW Swifts in the Major Semi-Final on Saturday, with the chance to book a direct ticket to the Grand Final on the line. The two Sydney teams have shared the honours this year, with each side winning one match.
The Giants won the more recent Sydney Derby, a Round 11 match in Adelaide. This weekend’s Sydney Derby will take place in Brisbane, but Parmenter believes that it will still be about what happens after the whistle blows.
“It’s really important for us to go in strong, have a really strong start and try and get ahead,” she said. “If the Swifts get some confidence, that’s when they play their best netball and… shutting down their structures early is going to make a really big difference for us.”
We will know whether it has made a difference, and how the plan is going for the Giants shortly after the first whistle at 1 pm on Saturday.
Regardless of the result, Fitzgerald knows that this team will be ready for its next match after the weekend, trusting the fight her team has shown all year.
“I think they’re pretty well prepared, I think this group will adapt quite well,” the coach said Thursday.
She’s right. After what has been such a trying year, on and off-court, the battle between the lines will be just another thing these young Giants face in 2021.
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