RELAX – that was the coach’s orders for Ballarat Rush players this weekend.
The trade-off is they must be focused from today for the routine planning and preparation that has got Auslec Rush this far – a South East Australian Basketball League south conference final.
All Rush coach Peter Cunningham asks of his players is to compete at full capacity until the final buzzer against Knox at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday night.
To get to that point, Cunningham knows his players must be mentally ready.
Physically, most players in the competition have injury niggles – a couple of Rush players are recovering from colds, Nya Mason continues to monitor her knee after a fall a fortnight ago and Kate Willey has been icing her knee after sustaining a slight strain in the preliminary final on Saturday night.
But they keep playing. They have remained tough.
“The weekend off is more about freshening up their minds,” Cunningham said.
“We’re not as talented, individually, if you analyse players on paper ... and we have to play at capacity every time. That’s mentally taxing.”
Knox finished the season atop the SEABL women’s south conference with 23 wins and three losses – the best performed women’s team in the league.
As expected, Knox powered through its semi-final against Hobart to nab a spot in the final.
Rush has defied expectations to win, chalking up a five-point victory in Nunawading and a 25-point win against Hobart in Tasmania on Friday night.
Knox is an enormous test.
Rush was the first to beat the Raiders this season, a one-point win at the Minerdome in May, and players are determined to rebuff talk it was a Raiders’ blip.
The Raiders have depth 10-deep on their rosters.
Cunningham reasons the Raiders can only play five on the floor at any one time.
He will meet with his leaders today to plot tactics and match-ups from the extensive homework he has already done on the Raiders’ roster.
Training tomorrow night will again be light before a sharp, hard session Thursday.
Cunningham wants to stick with what works best in routine for his team.
But, after a tough Friday night match interstate, the weekend was about refreshing.
So Cunningham seized the chance to watch his son play football and mow his neglected lawns and was pleased to get a tongue-in-cheek message from American Nya Mason wishing the Rush “old man” a happy Fathers’ Day.
He wants his team to be set for a massive week ahead.
This is Rush’s first conference final since 2007, then playing under their previous name Ballarat Lady Miners.
The club last won a women’s conference title in 2005.