WHEN Bathurst Giants coach Liz Kennedy stood on the Waratahs field after full-time in the Central West AFL preliminary final last Saturday, she was feeling a whole gambit of emotions.
Shock and disbelief was mixed with pride and joy.
It was because she just watched her team qualify for the grand final in their maiden season, the Giants having beaten the talent-packed Bathurst Lady Bushrangers 4-2-26 to 3-1-19.
“No way in the world did I think we would be playing in a grand final. That’s nothing against my girls, but I didn’t expect it,” Kennedy admitted.
“[But] They believed in each other and they believed in themselves, because they are all very competitive.”
While the wet, muddy conditions suited the Giants’ style of play more than the Bushrangers, with a quarter to go the game was locked up at 19-all.
Kennedy implored her players to give all they had in that final 15 minutes and they did.
Sophie Dixon booted the only major of the term for the Giants, while Kennedy watched on nervously as her back line repelled the Bushrangers.
“Our back line was just incredible, they absorbed an immense amount of pressure at the start of the fourth quarter,” she said.
“We kicked a point and knew we could breathe a little bit as we knew there weren’t going to be many points in the game. Sophie Dixon then kicked a goal and that was it pretty much.
“With 20 seconds to go I realised we had the game.
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“I was really nervous because you never know what can happen, especially when it’s the Bushrangers, they’ve been the premiers for the last three years.
“But the pressure was on them, the longer you are successful, the more pressure that is on you.”
The Giants will now face Dubbo – the 2017 runners-up – in the grand final at George Park 2 on Saturday.
Kennedy’s side will once again be the underdogs given they have lost their two most recent meetings against Dubbo, one of which was by 71 points.
However, it is a tag they are comfortable with and the Giants have proved they can spring upset results.
But no matter the outcome, the Giants have far exceeded what Kennedy had wanted to get out of their maiden season.
“For us this year, it was about girls being involved in footy,” the coach said.
“This time last year we had one player, by Christmas we had five, by February we had 12 and for our very first game we had 20. Then we’ve had 35 girls who have participated with us this season.”
Opening bounce is at 12.30pm.