Matildas’ legend Heather Garriock sees mindset as key heading into this weekend’s W-League Grand Final, but believes fellow Matildas’ icon Lisa De Vanna looms as a potential difference-maker for Melbourne Victory.
Capped 130 times for Australia across her long and illustrious playing career - the third-most in Matilda history - Garriock is very familiar with preparing for big games.
As a player, the midfielder won a 1999-2000 Ansett Summer Series title with the NSW Sapphires and 2009 W-League crown with Sydney FC, club honours in Sweden and Denmark and Continental crowns with the Matildas in both Oceania and Asia.
“It’s the old cliche, that you treat [a Grand Final] like every other game but let’s be honest - it’s not like every other game,” Garriock said.
“As a coach, if I’m playing in the Grand Final, I’d be trying to keep the team as happy and as pleased. There are not too many tactics being fed to players, just tweaks - especially going into a Grand Final.
“It’s [about] remaining calm.”
“Tom Sermmani, we’d played 120 minutes in a game and [were in] a penalty shootout against North Korea [in the 2010 Asian Women’s Cup Final]. We’re about to win an Asian Cup and he’s reflecting on what TV show is on back in the hotel at 7 pm and how we need to be back for that.
“So it’s just little tricks like that from an experienced coach.
“Both [Victory coach] Jeff [Hopkins] and [Sydney coach] Ante [Juric] are experienced coaches, so they’ll be doing their best to keep the players nice and relaxed but get them firing as well.”
Sydney and Victory booked their place in Sunday’s W-League decider in relatively comfortable fashion over the weekend; the Harbousiders downing a Michelle Heyman-less Canberra United 3-0 on Easter Monday and the Vuck defeating Brisbane Roar 6-2 in Queensland.
For Victory, the triumph over the Roar represents the first time they’ve progressed beyond the opening round of the finals in three successive attempts - previously going down to Sydney FC and Perth Glory in 19-20 and 18-19 respectively.
The chances of the side experiencing an emotional letdown in the Grand Final after overcoming their previous historical sicking point, though, can be discounted according to Garriock. Conversely, the Optus Sports’ analyst believes that Hopkins’ side should be seen as favourites for the game.
“No way [there will be a letdown], not when you’ve got a leader like Lisa De Vanna in the team,” she explained.
“You’ve got someone like her that there’s only one way for her and that’s to win. Then you’ve got Melina Ayres who I think has just been phenomenal. She was outstanding in the last game but has been doing it all season.
“I think Victory, in my opinion, would be favourites, in particular, because of the last game. But Sydney FC knows how to win and always find a win. It’s going to be tough.
“Sydney FC… they’ve just been consistent and you’ve got to give it to Ante Juric, he’s had different sides, different players but there’s one thing for sure that they certainly know how to win.
“I think it’s going to be tight but I think it’s going to be a really high-scoring game.”
In fact, Garriock, a former coach of Canberra United, says that the big-game experience and furious competitive drive that powers De Vanna represents an ace up Victory’s sleeve - one that should give Juric and Sydney FC pause for thought.
“[De Vanna] is a big moment player,” Garriock said. “She’s just cruised throughout the season in my opinion and then the next thing you know she’s got to step up for the big game and she’s done it.
“She’s done it on the international stage and she continues to do it on the W-League stage. This is her time and this is the moment. But for her, it will be about the team and about the team lifting that trophy.
“There’s no better feeling, so she will dig deep. In terms of off the ball, her defensive qualities were exceptional on the weekend but all of Victory’s was. You’ve got a young gun like Kyra Cooney-Cross as well, who is very unpredictable but very good.
“I would see a player like [Lisa], I’d be scared to be playing a player like that. Especially Sydney FC, who knows here inside out and, in particular, Ante as well.
“I [would] back Victory. Just from the performances. I think it would have been a different story [on Monday] had Canberra had Heyman upfront in terms of the threat.
“I just think that from an X-factor point of view you’ve got Kyra Cooney Cross, in-form Melina Ayres and experienced De Vanna and that’s formidable in my opinion.”