NERVES and Premier League Hockey go hand-in-hand for Tracey Gunning, but once the St Pat’s goalkeeper steps out onto the turf she is one of the finest shot blockers in the competition.
And she has been for a long while.
Though this Saturday’s women’s grand final against Lithgow Panthers will be her first at this level in 15 years, Gunning has a mountain of Premier League experience.
She’s done the splits, made diving sticks saves and blocked more one-on-ones than she could count. And each time she’s been nervous before doing it.
“For sure I’m nervous, I always have been. It’s not as bad once I’ve actually warmed up, I’m always nervous, but it’s a good nervous, it gets me in the right frame of mind,” she said.
“It’s been a long time since my last grand final, the other girls have probably played a few. My last grand final would have been in 2003 … it was that long ago.”
Though Gunning has been consistently strong in goals this season, she is as quick to deflect praise as she is shots.
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She has been impressed by performances of talented teenager Lilli-Rai Campbell, who shares keeping duties with her, and the rest of the Saints. It gives her the belief they can get the job done against Panthers, even though she knows the Lithgow side will fight hard.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic having Lilli, she is a great goalkeeper, she’s a great addition to the team,” Gunning said.
“I have confidence in my girls definitely, they’ve worked so hard week-in and week-out. They started in early February with their fitness.
“So I am quietly confident – very quietly – because Panthers are an awesome team. They are very skilful and they are not going to give up until the game is over really.
“So we’ve got to do that too, keep fighting to the very end.
“To be honest every game has been a really tough game in this Premier League competition, I don’t think we’ve had an easy game at all.
“I think it wouldn’t have mattered who we played this weekend, it’s going to be a really tough game.”
Saturday’s women’s grand final in Lithgow starts at 2.45pm.