EVEN with 209 matches under his belt and counting, Albury-Wodonga Bandits captain Michael Watson had to take some time out to process his side’s stunning semi-final win over Geelong last Saturday.
“It took a little while for it to sink in,” Watson said.
“Probably about 48 hours after the game the weight of it really hit, we’d made a grand final.”
The last time the Bandits were in the playoffs, Watson was forced to watch from the stands, having made the move to the Dandenong Rangers in 2009, before joining the Frankston Blues.
That was in 2012, and the tenacious defender has been through a lot since returning the Bandits’ line-up in 2013.
Their title defence didn’t go to plan, and the side was less than inspiring on their way to just seven wins in 2014.
After more than doubling the amount of wins they had last year on their way to their first playoff game since their championship year in 2012, Watson said there was a renewed energy in the side.
“I think this year we’ve done a great job of not only keeping physically fit, but mentally fresh the whole way through,” Watson said.
“The coaches have changed their philosophies a little bit as well.
“The way we’ve kept everyone up for the whole year is a real credit to the coaches.”
Having played and won their last four games at home, Watson said the advantage the Albury crowd offered the side had been key in their run to the grand final.
“We’re a ten-point better team at home,” Watson said.
“That’s just from the crowd's perspective.
“We were pretty over travelling to Melbourne, so we love playing at home.”
The veteran point guard said that he and fellow stalwart Matt de Koeyer had been waiting for an opportunity to see more time on court, one that was handed to them after Daniel Sepokas’ season ending elbow injury.
“We’d probably done everything we could at training during the year, keeping everyone up,” he said.
“Everyone loves a bit more court time, and we’ve got to concentrate on the things we each do well.
“I bring more of a defensive edge, and Matt is a great shooter, so there’s a good balance there with the two of us rotating from the bench.”
As for his own plans for the future, the Bandits captain said any decision as to whether he would play on could come down to the result of the grand final.
“I’ve been asked a bit about that,” Watson said.
“It could depend on the grand final, if we won it’d be a pretty nice way to go out.
“But I’m taking things one year at a time at the moment, my body feels good so we’ll see what happens.”
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