VU Western Spurs and Heidelberg have taken vastly different routes to reach the 2019 MC Security Division 2 Women’s grand final.
The two sides will be vying for premiership glory when they meet at Epping Recreation Reserve this Saturday.
VU Western Spurs finished undefeated atop the table, earning week one of the finals off. The Spurs then produced a dominate performance in the second semi final to defeat South Morang by 70 points – handing them direct passage into the grand final.
As well having two weeks off during the finals series, the Spurs also had a bye in the final round of the home and away season. Navigating these breaks has been a unique challenge according to coach John Mustafa.
“It’s pretty special to have had a season like this,” Mustafa said.
“The byes have been a trickier task in some aspects, but the girls have really focused and we’ve been doing a couple of things that haven’t necessarily related to football to keep ourselves fresh.”
Heidelberg finished third on the ladder to earn a double chance in its first season in the NFNL women’s football competition.
The Tigers were kept goalless in their qualifying final defeat to South Morang, before bouncing back in the first semi to defeat Eltham by 34 points They then turned the tables on South Morang in the preliminary final, winning a close game 4.5 (29) to 3.3 (21).
Heidelberg coach Mitch Skelly is pleased with the way his side executed the game plan in the preliminary final upset.
“It was all about tackling for us. We had to tackle a bit harder because in our previous game against South Morang they cut us open through the middle,” Skelly said.
“On the weekend, you could see two of their better players in Cassie Hurst and Demi Hallett were getting double teamed and that was the way we wanted to play and it paid dividends for us.”
Although first thought of as a challenge, Mustafa believes the club’s light schedule ahead of the grand final has been of great benefit to his side.
“I don’t think Heidelberg have had a bye for seven or eight weeks which is unfortunate for them,” Mustafa says.
“For us, having the byes has meant that the girls who have had niggling injuries have had lesser or higher training loads depending on how they needed to be managed.
“The bye factor has worked in our favour when initially we thought it might be a problem, but it has actually been pretty good.”
On the other hand, Skelly says that the continuity of Heidelberg’s season has worked in its favour.
“The Spurs have only played one game since the 27th of July so that works in our favour,” Skelly said.
“We only had seven players who had played senior footy before this season playing on the weekend so every single game we play, we get better.
“We’ve relished the chance to play more footy. If we can get one percent better each week, we’re getting closer and closer to the top side in the Spurs.”
The two sides last met in Round 7, where the Spurs came away 10.12 (72) to 0.0 (0) winners.
Mustafa will take confidence from the victory but is also aware of the steps forward Heidelberg has taken since then.
“Well done to Heidelberg for putting a team together and the growth of the club has been great and their development has been fantastic, so hats off to them,” Mustafa said.
“We can take a little bit from the way Heidelberg played last time, but they might have a couple different personnel this week.
“We’ll have a look at what they did in their preliminary final but coming out of our last match with them, the mental edge is the best we can take out of that.”
Skelly is hopeful his side will be able follow through on a game plan that could help combat the Spurs.
“The last time we played the Spurs was probably the weakest team we’ve put on the park so unfortunately that wasn’t a good reflection,” Skelly said.
“At the end of the day, we know we’re up against it because the Spurs are a good side. I think they’ve only conceded six goals in their last 13 matches.
“We know that we can score against them if things go our way and we’ll put a plan in place to make that possible.”
Having gone through the season undefeated, it was clear early that VU Western Spurs were the flag favourites and Mustafa believes his side will be able to cope under the weight of expectation.
“It is a grand final and obviously the girls know what is expected but we’re trying to treat it like a normal week,” Mustafa said.
“I know it sounds cliché but we’re just getting the confidence into the girls which is what we’ve done consistently throughout the year.”
Skelly is proud of how far his side has come in their first season of football.
“We’ve worked as hard as we can all year to get to where we are and we’re just going to enjoy the fact that we won a prelim final and embrace what we’ve done,” Skelly says.
“We’ll work really hard, but we have already achieved something for our first year in football by just making a grand final and it’s worth celebrating.
“Whatever happens on the weekend is a bonus for us.”
The first bounce of the grand final between VU Western Spurs and Heidelberg is at 11:40am on Sunday at Epping Recreation Reserve.