WRITTEN off pre-season, written off mid-season and written off before the play-offs.
The Townsville Fire have made a habit of defying the odds this season and coach Chris Lucas expects his side to continue the trend in tomorrow’s grand final against Bendigo.
“Pre-season we weren’t even picked to make top four,’’ Lucas said yesterday.
“Six weeks in we were 3-5, lost our import and we were in trouble.
“We still had a belief in our group that we could make finals and we kept fighting.
“(Import) Jess Adair then came into our team and gave us some stability and we made the top four.
“Nobody picked us against Adelaide and nobody picked us against Dandenong.
“We feel like we’re in a good place and we feel like we’ve earned the right to be here competing for the trophy.”
Townsville has advanced to the grand final the hard way.
The Fire were on the road in Bendigo for the final regular season game and then won road games in Adelaide and Dandenong to secure their place in the grand final.
It would seem the players have spent more time in planes and airports than they have in their own homes.
“We don’t talk about that too much,’’ Lucas said of the Fire’s constant travelling.
“Our last month has been a journey and the fatigue factor is there, but once Sunday comes around I don’t think it will matter.”
The Fire’s ability to get through the travel factor speaks volumes for the team chemistry within the group.
“I feel quite strongly about team chemistry and the people we recruit,’’ Lucas said.
“I don’t have the wrong people in our group. They not only need to be able to play the game, they need to be quality people as well.
“I’m pretty sure that Bendigo and ourselves go down the same track. Both clubs are operating at about 40 per cent of a couple of the big clubs, so to achieve this for both clubs is pretty special.”
The Fire were one of only three teams to defeat Bendigo in the regular season when they won 56-52 at home in November.
However, Lucas isn’t taking too much notice of that result.
“Finals basketball is completely different,’’ he said.
“What happened at home was a low-scoring affair and both teams didn’t shoot well.
“That means nothing now and finals basketball is a completely different game.”
Kristi Harrower is the architect for Bendigo and the most obvious choice as the Spirit player the Fire must stop.
While Lucas concedes Harrower is a star, he is wary of placing too much emphasis on her to his side.
“Kristi is going to get her points. She’s a wonderful leader, she’s the engine room of the team,’’ he said.
“Bendigo has a wonderfully balanced group. We match-up okay, but it’s not about one player.
“They have four or five people who can get off.
“We’ve got to try and nullify Kristi, of course, but Gabe Richards has had a wonderful season, Chelsea Aubry plays her role perfectly, Kelsey Griffin is a superstar in my view, Kelly Wilson can get off at any time and then you’ve got Renae Camino coming in off the bench.
“They’re very balanced and very deep and we’re hoping we can make it a good contest.”
Lucas said the Fire would love to create history for Townsville.
“There’s never been a national title won in any sporting code in Townsville,’’ he said.
“There’s been some grand final appearances and preliminary finals, but there’s never been a national title.
“I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the support this week. If we were to take the trophy home it would mean as much to us as it would to Bendigo.”