After blooding nine rugby newbies into the XV woman code this year, the Northern Panthers are now seeing the dividends pay off with their team of newcomers days away from grand final glory.
We chatted with Panthers coach Silei Etuale to see how the team has developed so quickly under her watch.
Rugby Victoria (RV) It was a clinical semi final win. What pleased you most about the performance?
Silie Etuale (SE): What was pleasing to see from the sideline was the energy that our girls brought from start to finish, being able to support each other and also having some girls slightly out of position, showed that the trust amongst our little rugby family has grown since Round 1.
RV:Any injuries heading into the GF? What's the focus this week at training?
SE: We have May Sa'aga that was ruled out just before the semi finals, which is unfortunate as she has been a great asset to our backline.
Although our captain, Tangata Tupou, has done extremely well to fill her position last week.Our main focus this week is to execute the basics well and keep a positive energy throughout the week.
RV: You come into the GF as the #1 ranked team, how does that pressure sit with you?
SE: I don't believe that you're ranked #1 until that Cup says you are.
I suppose if you let pressure get to you, it's another thing to add to your list of things to do.
Both teams have sat on top of the ladder all season and both deserve to be there in the GF.
RV: What do you like about this EH team? Where are their strengths and where will they challenge you most?
SE: The great thing about Hills is that they're young and talented. Like our captain has previously mentioned, Hills has strength across the team - they have great ball runners in both forwards and the backs.
They will work hard on defense and will challenge us wherever possible. Just like all the other women's teams in the competition, it's a never give up attitude.
It will definitely be a great game from both sides
RV: What has been the proudest moment of the season for you?
SE: My proudest moment is seeing our little rugby family of all levels of experience come together as one.
We have nine women playing this weekend that have never played rugby before until this season and are about to experience their first ever Rugby Grand Final and I'm so happy that they're doing it with our Panther Family.
The joy of seeing our rugby girls work hard for each other on the field and actually treat each other like sisters off the field makes my job easy. The trust they have built with each other is something you can only experience with your own blood.
RV: What would a premiership mean to you, the team and the club?
SE: I believe that all the sacrifices of being a mother, a student, the supporter of their own little families, a worker making ends meet and to make themselves available 3 days a week where they were able to build another (rugby) family outside of their own makes it even more rewarding.
We have girls from as far as Mickleham, Melton, Truganina, Toorak and Blackburn South travelling to Reservoir twice a week to ensure we get the best out of our team each week, so to win the premiership, it would definitely be for my girls that are so loyal to our Panther Family.
RV: Thanks for sharing Silei and go well on Saturday
The Lindroth Cup will be livestreamed on the RV facebook page from 10:30am on Saturday.