A PRE-GAME pep talk from Kristi Harrower and some wise words from Gabe Richards helped Bendigo Bank Spirit rising star Madeleine Garrick control her nerves in her WNBL finals debut on Sunday.
The biggest game in Garrick’s blossoming career coincided with the most important match in the Spirit’s history, a seven-point win over Dandenong in the second semi-final.
With Bendigo Stadium packed with screaming fans and a home grand final on the line it wasn’t just Garrick who was feeling, understandably, nervous before tip-off.
But four-time Olympic medallist Harrower had seen it all before and the Spirit skipper focused her team before the match.
“I think obviously everyone’s got a bit of nerves, but when we were in the changerooms Kristi told us to use those nerves.
“She says they’re a sign to her that she’s ready,” Garrick said.
The words worked early on, with the Spirit shooting to a 13-4 lead.
Already at fever pitch, the boisterous crowd rose to another level and Garrick could feel the excitement from the bench.
“In the first couple of minutes we were on the bench and so into the game I had goosebumps,” the 20-year-old said.
“I was sitting next to Rach Herrick and we were just like ‘this is unbelievable’.
“Gabe came off and told us just to be confident.
“The whole group has been really supportive, especially for someone my age.”
Far from being overawed, Garrick played with her renowned tenacity when she hit the court and coolly sidestepped an opponent to sink a long-range basket with one of her first touches.
To be playing in a home grand final on Sunday, March 10, feels a bit surreal for the Shepparton junior, who trained with the Spirit before spending the past three seasons learning her craft at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
“I’m just happy I’m in a team that’s been so successful, but also being in a team when it’s been such a great season,” she said.
“The girls have just been great – it’s more than you can ask for really.
“We all just get on so well and that shows on the court.
“I have friends on other teams say that you girls look like you have fun when you play and I think that’s been the biggest thing that’s helped us get through, just the way we’ve gelled on and off the court.”
After the WNBL season, Garrick will be a key player for Bendigo Lady Braves in the SEABL.