EAST Gambier will embark on what coach Tarsh McCallum described as a “fairytale” to try and overcome powerhouse club Millicent in tomorrow’s Western Border netball grand final at McLaughlin Park.
The Bulldogs have been around the mark all season, but appeared behind the Saints and West Gambier for premiership contention.
However, East turned the tables with an impressive upset over the Roos in the preliminary final to earn a grand final berth.
West started the match as favourite, but the Bulldogs managed a four-goal win.
The triumph backed up a similar positive outing in the semi-final against North Gambier the week before.
East raced out of the blocks early, but the Tigers came back to push the Bulldogs until the final whistle.
McCallum said the side’s strong finals campaign will boost her squad’s confidence ahead of the big game.
“We have had a great finals series so far as a team, which has brought a lot of confidence in each other,” she said.
“West are a polished team, so keeping possession was important.
“It was something we needed to improve on, so executing that well has lifted us.”
On the evidence of the last match played between the two sides, East is the most likely to end Millicent’s remarkable run of premierships.
The Bulldogs are the only team to have defeated the Saints for the entire 2019 season with a remarkable three-goal victory in round 12.
McCallum said Millicent fielded an under-strength side that day, but it will still give her team belief it can overcome its defence.
“Millicent had three players away when we got the win,” she said.
“We were able to win against their starting defence, which means we know we can beat half the court.”
Despite the remarkable upset, the Saints scored a pair of comfortable victories in the other two contests in 2019.
Millicent is clearly the class side of the competition and East is under no illusions of the challenge which awaits.
The Bulldogs have recently fell short against the Saints twice on the big stage in 2015 and 17.
McCallum described Millicent as a quality side.
“Millicent are a fast team and can score quickly,” she said.
“They are made up of many talented players, who connect so well as a team with no weak spots.”
However, the Saints do not hold all the aces because East has superstar Tenille Gray up its sleeve.
Gray was recently named WBNA best and fairest for the second year in a row and looms as a major threat in goal attack position.
McCallum said Gray is a remarkable leader, who has stepped up another level this year and galvanises her team mates.
“Tenille has always been an amazing player, but this year her leadership role has only advanced her skills further,” she said.
“She is reliable and exciting to watch, which lifts us as a group.
“My favourite thing about her is she never needs to change her game style.
“What she does works and it means other teams have to adjust to her.”
Despite the weight of history against the Bulldogs, McCallum believes her side can be the first team to knock the Saints off their mantle.
She said her team will have a clear plan on how to stop the Millicent juggernaut.
“We have identified our strengths against them and we are confident in our plan,” she said.
“We will focus on maintaining possession, whether that be fast or slow ball movement, which we have mastered well.
“I believe possession and errors will play a huge part in deciding the winner.
“We are as prepared as we can be and excited for the big challenge.”