Petrik keeps tricks up sleeve from Flames for Tigers in grand final

ORANGE Autos Rockingham Flames coach Ryan Petrik would have seen anything but a third women's SBL grand final in four years as a failure, but he now is looking forward to finding out the answer to whether or not his team or the Willetton Tigers will be crowned champions for 2015.

Petrik has put together a dominant Flames team for a four-year period now that made a grand final in 2012, just fell short of that in 2013 despite a 16-6 regular season record and then culminating in the Rockingham club's first ever SBL championship last year to farewell captain Kaye Tucker.

Having lost just twice on the way to that championship, the Flames again lost just two games during 2015 on the way to another minor premiership and now they have advanced to a third grand final in four years on the back of sweeping the Cockburn Cougars and Mandurah Magic in the playoffs.

Petrik was proud of the way his team got over a dangerous Magic team in two games in the semi finals while able to shutdown Casey Mihovilovich, and now he feels the Flames have got to the point of making the grand final that he expected of them in 2015.

"The Mandurah series went largely to plan. In its simplest form, it's a case of not letting Milo beat us, anyone else can get 40 if they want, but it couldn’t be Milo doing the damage. She’s the heart of that team, and we knew if we could slow her, it would have a mental impact on the rest of them," Petrik said.

"Getting back to this stage was such a relief post game, it's grand final or bust with this team. We treat it as a 25 week season, and when you’ve got a pretty good team, you just want to get to the last week and enjoy the experience."

Precious little has separated Rockingham and Willetton right throughout the season with both teams losing just twice during the year, including once to each other, and with the Flames claiming the minor premiership ahead of the Tigers by one solitary point.

Both teams have now gone through the first two rounds of the playoffs with four successive wins as the two dominant clubs of the women's SBL season get the chance to do battle for the championship on Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.

While there is the stars like Rockingham's Sami Whitcomb and Darcee Garbin, and Willetton's Louella Tomlinson and Kate Malpass who will be on show, the strength of both teams is the depth of strong contributors they possess.

Petrik now admits to having kept some plays up his sleeve for the likely grand final meeting with the Tigers, and having not unveiled them in the playoffs so far against the Cougars and Magic, he hopes it works as he hopes and has planned for against Willetton on Friday night.

"Willetton have been terrific all year, matching us every step of the way. It’s hard to believe a team that goes 20-2 will not walk away with the championship, but we can’t both win. The job Simon Parker has done since taking over last year has been terrific, getting them off the canvas and into the playoffs in 2014, and into the final in 2015," Petrik said.

"We played them in round 20 and walked away knowing we’d have to go through them to win it again, as we were on opposite sides of the draw, and couldn’t see anyone else beating them.

"We’ve had five weeks of putting stuff in at practice just for Willetton, and then saving it during the Mandurah and Cockburn series so they couldn’t scout it. Time will tell if it works or not, but we’re comfortable with the plan on how to best take them down."

Article by Chris Pike


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