THE Strikers say they won’t be intimidated by the aggression and physicality of grand final rivals Southern United.
The pair face off in the state league 1 grand final at the Victorian Hockey Centre on Sunday with Albury-Wodonga holding a 2-0 record against their opponents in the home-and-away season.
Both games turned into goal-fests befitting the sides with the two most prolific goal scorers in the competition.
The Strikers captain Nan Latta set a new benchmark with 40 goals for the year, Southern United’s Celine Donnet next with 32.
Latta scored all five goals in the first-round encounter but doesn’t believe she will get that latitude on Sunday.
“I certainly don’t think they will give me that space again and to be fair that was a rare day, I was on song and just couldn’t do any wrong in front of goals,” she said.
“But the girl who would normally mark me and is also their captain, broke her ankle two weeks ago so that will be interesting to see what they do there.
“I think that in the back of our minds we all expected to be lining up against Southern United — they have been the second-strongest team all year.”
Coach Tony Jones expected Southern United to start fast and be aggressive.
“They are a physical side and will no doubt look to intimidate our girls and that is fine — it’s finals hockey, we can handle that,” he said.
“They also have a very good striker and we will need to be wary of her, she is their main avenue to goal.
“They are very fast starters and got out of the blocks quickly that day and in the first semi-final against Yarra Valley a few weeks ago they led 3-0 inside 15 minutes.”
Jones said the Strikers had risen to every challenge all year and expected Sunday to be no different.
“All year we have played on the secondary ground at the hockey centre but this is the Olympic field and a new experience for everyone,” he said.
“But despite what is a relatively young squad the girls have taken everything in their stride this year.”
Latta said she would stress the importance of giving 110 per cent.
“We need to do the same things that have worked for us all year — get the basics right, stay positive,” she said.
“The fact is you don’t get a chance to play in the grand final that often, no matter how many years you play, so it is important to enjoy the moment and make the most of your opportunities.
“You want to be spent by the end of the game — it is no good having something left in the tank when the hooter goes.”