Last season began like a fairytale, when we started the season on 4 wins and 0 losses, the mood in Fever Camp was a little delirious but, for me at least, also a little on edge. We were in the middle of creating history for the Club but the ghosts of seasons past, personal doubts that you haven’t ever seemed to fully shake and external expectations that the bubble would eventually burst, simmered away in the background. It’s funny how quickly even a small setback is enough to send you mentally spinning back to that one time, aged 11, in a middle school netball game that you literally threw a game away or most recently and importantly the 2017 season where winning an individual game was seriously questionable.
Although we have spoken at length about our aspirations to be an unstoppable team, worked hard on our off-court expectations and the results on court were echoing those sentiments, letting yourself believe you are capable of sustaining success and deserving of it still seemed to be the challenge. Belief is a powerful thing and taking a hold of it with two hands, despite the results and the hard work was the challenge.
Despite the apparent U-turn, there were still downs for us on the court throughout the year; breaking that winning streak and losing to Firebirds in Round 5, being defeated in quite spectacular fashion to Vixens on the road just two weeks later and then losing, again, to Firebirds in Round 12.
However, as the year went on, it felt like we honestly dodged quite a few bullets that could have been fatal to us. To mention a few; losing Snoop (Shannon Eagland) in Round 3 for what thankfully turned out to be minor surgery, a very close call with Veritys’ knee in our final round of the regular season followed the next week with another close shave to Jhaniele's knee in our semi-final against Giants.
From the second that we stepped off of the plane back in Perth after beating Giants in the Semi-Final to secure ourselves a home Grand Final, things just felt different. We were greeted at the airport late that night by some of the proudest and most passionate fans, who, having been on the whole journey wanted to share immediately with us that achievement. Having never experienced anything like that before I was surprised, emotional (even recollecting and writing about it is still making me have ALL THE FEELS!!) and, if possible, even more determined!
The media attention that we had in the two weeks leading in was sensational, and if anything, goes to show the appetite that there is for our great sport and the strong, positive and respectful female role models we have to offer. The West Australian changed their front page banner for us on the paper every day in the week of the Final, we got a few back pages and even a commemorative cover of the paper on Grand Final day. When tickets for the Grand Final went on sale, we had hopes of a record crowd at Perth Arena but our expectations were far surpassed as the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final sold out and eventually set a National League attendance record of 13,722 (I can’t even begin to describe to you the feeling I had walking onto the court that day, the noise, our home, the occasion!!). So many people went out of their way to come up to me across the weeks to say how proud they were of the Club, that they had tickets for the Final or had missed out and would be watching and genuinely just wanting to wish us well. Perth LITERALLY turned green! Landmarks across the City lit up green in support of us; Matagarup Bridge, The Crown, Optus Stadium, Elizabeth Quay and Perth Town Hall to name a few. SO COOL!! Our Team Run prior to the Final at the SNC (State Netball Centre) was filled with energy and anticipation and Big Stace (Stacey Marinkovich) put together something really special for us that allowed us to acknowledge the journey that we had been on that season.
I'll quickly share a funny story with you to show how in the zone I was about the Final (self-absorbed). The morning of I woke up extra early given the early start time, did my yoga, went for coffee and started making game day pancakes. I popped into my room for something and found a card on my bed. I was pretty excited by this as I'm usually the one for giving physical mementos to celebrate moments and I assumed Sara had made the lovely gesture of writing me a good luck card. Turns out it was an anniversary card, which I had completely forgotten about, (my tendency towards OCD and order rarely leaves me caught off guard!!) and resulted in Sara finding me in tears in my room because I felt like such a terrible human! Eventually, having been talked around, rehydrated, filled with pancakes and extra emotions dispensed with I was off to the Arena feeling much calmer and able to see the funny side of it.
Arriving at the Arena I felt great and remember thinking to myself consistently across those two weeks that we had overcome so much and it genuinely felt like the odds could not have been any more in our favour (this, I think is also what made it so much harder for me to reconcile with having finished second best). I drew inspiration from everything around me so that I went into the game full of confidence, belief and the trust that we had prepared well and had what it took to win.
When the game finished it felt like one hell of an anti-climax. The years' work, sweat and tears and I was stood on our home court feeling like a guest at someone else's party. We didn’t even get a medal for finishing second, the thing that you hate at the time but at the very least you are acknowledged. Before I went on leave I posted the following to my Instagram:
Life is unpredictable and sport is often more cruel than kind. Almost a week has passed, and I'm still suffering from the biggest netball hangover. The clouds have yet to clear in my mind so that I can see the bright side of what I'm told (and know deep down) was a fairytale season. Losing in a Grand Final is heartbreaking and I've never done it before.
These past two years have been incredibly confronting, personally and professionally, and I can't help but feel like I've underachieved. BUT, I have never been so challenged, so well supported or so hungry for collective success as this past 42 weeks.
Time is an incredible healer and so too can be opportunity. I feel incredibly lucky to be given another opportunity to continue to be a part of the West Coast Fever story for two more years!! I'm not over this year, yet, but now I can say there is a next year, and one after that too!! We work hard, we are passionate and we will find another level together in 2019 because we have Got Grit.
We have not properly debriefed the Grand Final or the 2018 season yet, although I know when we have our Internationals back with us it is first on the agenda. I've also yet to watch the Final back, although to be honest, I’m not sure that I will. It was only the other day in researching for this blog that I saw the score again and realised that we only lost by three goals. All I can recall from the end of the game is just having that moment of realisation that with the time that remained, the scoreline was one that we couldn’t pull back. It could have been 10, it was three, but I knew that the game had gone.
I couldn’t reconcile with it at the time or summarise it even weeks after the experience, I'm a passionate person which makes such a huge season still an emotional experience for me to reflect on. I'm incredibly committed to West Coast Fever and potentially even more invested than ever given time to settle here and that I currently have no other outlet for my netball. I understand now what I didn’t as the final whistle went, it wasn’t our time but who’s to say it won’t be next time!