Roar ready for grand final

Brisbane Roar captain Clare Polkinghorne has no doubts that her team can rise to the occasion in tomorrow’s Grand Final, saying their second season in the Westfield W-League has made them stronger as a squad.

Brisbane Roar captain Clare Polkinghorne has no doubts that her team can rise to the occasion in tomorrow-s Grand Final, saying their second season in the Westfield W-League has made them stronger as a squad.

Finishing the league in third position, the Roar had to qualify for the decider the hard way, beating second-placed Central Coast Mariners away from home for the chance to defend their title against Sydney FC tomorrow.

Polkinghorne concedes the year didn-t exactly go as intended, but the lessons have been learnt.

“It hasn-t really been what we planned this year, but we-ve learnt from what has happened and it has made us a stronger side,” she said.

Coach Jeff Hopkins agreed.

“This year we-ve been tested a little bit more and that-s a good thing,” the former Wales international said.

“I personally believe that the league has improved this year and it-s been more of a challenge for us every week.

“Having struggled for a few weeks really made us really look at ourselves as a team and put a few things right that we might not have done throughout the year so I think we-re in really good shape at this stage”.

Facing a side that has scored 15 goals in their last four outings is a daunting task, but Polkinghorne said her side-s experience in last year-s showpiece event could give them an edge.

“We are confident in ourselves and we have been through this before and we know what to expect which will give us an advantage.

“We-ve trained well for this game and for the last three or four weeks there has been a real buzz around training and this has started to show in our results.”

Given the ever-present rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales, the 20-year-old said that they were expecting a physically tough encounter.

“We should go out there with both teams giving 100 per cent and no matter if it-s a Grand Final or round one, Sydney and Brisbane always have that little bit of rivalry.”

The Roar have never lost to the Sky Blues, beating them twice last year and securing a hard-fought 1-1 draw earlier in the season.

When asked on the key to winning the game, Polkinghorne kept it simple.

“To score more goals than Sydney,” she laughed.

“They have a lot of key players in key positions, and so do we, so it-s going to be who wins those one-on-one individual battles out there which will make it an interesting game.”

Both Polkinghorne and Hopkins hoped the game wouldn-t go to penalties as it did in last season-s semi-final, but the Roar coach said they had been practising just in case.

“We-ve done a few shootouts in training and putting big stakes on it, the odd Mars bar, but then again not sure if anyone has paid up yet,” Hopkins joked.

“Look, the game with Sydney last year was a cracking game and a great advertisement for the women-s game in general and hopefully we-ll get something of that quality again.”

The Roar travel to Sydney with a fully fit squad, but will be without striker Sasha McDonnell after she was sent off against the Mariners in the semi-final, but Polkinghorne said the strength in their squad was not to be underestimated.

“It-s disappointing for Sasha,” she said. “But we have a lot of depth in our squad and hopefully either Courts (Courtney Beutel) or Lana (Harch) or whoever else gets to step up will do the job for us.”

Brisbane Roar take on Sydney FC in their second Westfield W-League Grand Final tomorrow at Shark Park, Woolooware, kicking off at 3.00pm. The match will be shown exclusive on ABC1 and ABC HD, starting at 2.50pm AEST.

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