Every year since they entered the competition I’ve considered Orange Physiotherapy Vipers genuine title contenders, but every year they’ve stumbled at the Toyota Cup’s penultimate hurdle.
I’ve gone as far as branding them Orange Netball Association’s perennial could-have-beens more than once.
The Canberra Raiders of the Toyota Cup, if you will. A side that always seems to have a great roster and consistently has plenty of hope, but can’t quite seem to get the job done.
That’s not intended to sound as harsh as I’m sure it reads, it’s just my way of suggesting they probably haven’t truly reached their potential in the last couple of seasons.
After all, without references – whether they be to other teams, the Simpsons or Keanu Reeves’ movies – I’m nothing.
Titles are very, very hard to come by in any sport and obviously the effort and drive has always been there, they’ve been thwarted by some really good sides in the past too, but it’s still surprising to me they’ve not made a grand final before this one.
Don’t misread this, I’m not here to slam Vipers’ past performances, I’m stoked the minor premiers have earned a crack at the big dance, it’s a well-deserved reward after dominating the regular season and claiming the minor title.
It must be a relief too, and I’m sure the side’s incredibly satisfied they’ve managed to tick that box and break their preliminary final hoodoo too, doing so by skipping that game altogether with a major semi-final win.
Therein lays their biggest challenge this weekend though, fighting back that satisfaction.
I’ve never been one to buy into the whole ‘you have to lose a grand final to learn how to win one’ mentality so for me that’s not a factor for Vipers, but they can’t allow themselves to be happy just being in the big dance.
Letting that feeling take hold is a recipe for disaster, especially considering the black and teal bibs are playing a ruthless Orange City Craig Harvey Mechanical side that boasts a host of players who know what it takes to win on the big stage.
Even though the club decided to split its top-flight sides evenly this season there’s still a number of players in the CHM side that have won multiple titles, the belief that big-game success breeds puts the Lions in good stead.
But, put simply, it’s a mental battle for Vipers.
Saturday’s decider will no doubt be ferocious physically and far more testing than any other game this year, but pound-for-pound Vipers have been the best-performed side in 2018.
Granted, there’s not much between them and Orange City, but Vipers have ticked that box so there’s no question they can beat the Lions and hoist that much-coveted cup.
They just have to make sure they take the right mindset in, because you can guarantee Orange City will.
I’m sure they will, they’re coached by Lynne Middleton and if anyone knows the ins and outs of preparing for a big game mentally it’s her.
I’m still not going to tip a winner.
Vipers must be considered favourites but Orange City – formerly Robin Hood – is Orange City.
Plus, I don’t want to risk giving either side the kiss of death, which I do constantly in the football codes.
Actually, here’s my tip, I said this to the Vipers players when asked “who are you going for?” too.
Netball will be the winner, regardless of who comes out on top.
It’s going to be one serious game, which will once again show why Orange Netball Association deserves its reputation as one of the strongest in the state outside Sydney.
How good’s a cliche?