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That’s what Technical A head coach Geni Ah Tong pinpoints for her team’s turnaround season, which started from playing promotion-relegation in the first round to claiming the Trust Bank Trophy on Tuesday night.
“I guess our story is not one of your traditional stories of getting to the final,” she said.
“We called the championship round the redemption round for a reason.”
And for Technical, there was no sweeter redemption than defeating perennial title contenders Lincoln University A in the premier final, 43-36.
It ended a whirlwind season for a team that teetered on the edge of falling to premier 2 in June.
Ah Tong said the importance of the team’s connections in and outside of training was highlighted following their disappointing first round.
“I was away for three weeks, and we had girls away in the ANZ Premiership and in the NNL, so we had B team players and others helping us out throughout the first round,” she said.
“When we all came back, we realised we needed to work on connections, on the court and socially too.”
Soon after, Technical participated in three mental skill sessions with former Black Cap Todd Astle as Ah Tong believed it was “the best thing for the team”.
As the team gained momentum in the championship round, Ah Tong got the players to analyse videos of games themselves and mirror specific game play at trainings to prepare for opponents.
“Going into our semi-final against Kereru we knew they had a loud support group on the sidelines, so we did a lot of under-pressure trainings,” she said.
“There was loud music and yelling at our shooters to get them to adjust to the environment.”
A large component of Technical’s season consisted of “living and breathing” their Top Gun theme as well.
“The Top Gun theme was brought to life with every video I cut and showed to the girls,” Ah Tong said.
“My speeches were always linked back to the movie, and I got my brother to sew patches with each of the player’s call names they made up as well.”
The theme was evident in Technical’s game play too, with ‘Maverick’ called by players when the team had momentum.
But in Tuesday’s final, momentum never left Technical’s side.
A strong 10-6 first quarter saw Technical limit defending champions Lincoln University to their lowest quarter score of the season.
Ah Tong said targetting Lincoln University goal shoot Kate Grant was a large reason why.
“We knew that Kate Grant was their playmaker and didn’t like the high ball so we made sure we covered the front of the circle,” she said.
Goal keeper Louise Thayer and goal defence Kate Littlejohn consistently disrupted the normally free-flowing Lincoln University attack, picking up plenty of turnovers throughout the game.
Technical opted for short-play on attack, which Ah Tong said was a change for the team.
“We knew Lincoln had hunters like Kate (Lloyd) and Charlotte (Knight) so a massive work on for us was playing it short and then making sure our attackers were hitting the circle edge.”
Despite the experienced Tiana Placid making an immediate impact for Lincoln Univeristy at wing attack in the second quarter, Technical stood tall to go into the second half with a 21-15 lead.
Ah Tong was confident in her starting seven, opting for no changes throughout the game while Lincoln University made several changes on defence.
Although Lincoln University were able to claw back a nine-goal deficit, Technical’s ability to convert more turnovers ultimately won them the title.
And in fitting Top Gun fashion, Technical’s management team saluted the team’s win with a pilot hat and aviator sunglasses once the final whistle blew.
Said Ah Tong: “The final message was to hit the target and bring it home.”
Grand final stats:
Technical A 43 (O Wilkie 30/36, K Ralph 13/19) def Lincoln University A 36 (K Grant 24/30, T Day 12/15). Qtrs: 10-6, 21-15, 30-24, 43-36.