Alanna Kennedy and Caitlin Foord are no strangers to W-League grand finals.
Last season, Kennedy was part of the Melbourne City side that secured the Championship title over Sydney FC, while Foord played for Perth Glory when they were beaten to the trophy by City in 2014-15.
Now back in the big dance, the two Matildas stars are preparing with their Sydney FC teammates to host Glory this Saturday at Jubilee Stadium.
They are hoping to secure the Championship trophy for the Sky Blues for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign.
“I know what to expect,” Kennedy told The Women’s Game.
“I know in terms of it being a big game and the nerves in the lead-up to it. I know I have to prepare myself just like any other game … I’ve experienced [Grand Finals, and] I know it’s going to be a different level of football, so I’m prepared to come up against that and to bring it myself.”
Foord, on the other hand, hasn’t played in a Grand Final for four years, having injured her foot while playing for Sydney against Newcastle Jets in last season’s semi-final. Although she was sitting on the sidelines for the final, she still felt all the emotions when Sydney lost to Melbourne City 2-0.
“We definitely don’t want to be feeling that again,” she said.
“I think you just have to focus on yourself and the team and [try] to do your best job for the team. At the end of the day, the team that takes their chances is gonna win.”
Kennedy has felt her fair share of finals heartbreak as well but believes those experiences have made her resilient and prepared for any possible outcome.
“I’ve experienced [losing] plenty of times in different leagues and matches. It doesn’t really get any easier, to be honest,” she said.
“We have to hope that doesn’t happen. If it happens, I know how to deal with it. There’s not much you can do about it other than just let time pass.”
While it’s expected that the two best teams of the regular season will face off in the Grand Final, this season is different. It’s the first time since the 2013-14 campaign that the two teams that finished third and fourth will play each other in the final.
That just goes to show how close this season really was.
“The calibre of players we’ve been attracting from overseas has made the league a lot better,” Kennedy said. “Even just within Australia, the quality of [local] players is getting higher and higher. This season – how close the league was – just proves how much every team is a beatable team and can win on any day.”
That was proven in this season’s semi-final when Perth shocked the league by defeating Premiers Melbourne Victory 4-2 in extra time.
Foord thinks that performance showed just how hungry the Glory are for their first W-League Championship title.
“They’ve been to a couple of grand finals and they’re yet to win one,” she said. “I know how huge that would be for the club and the players and for Bobby [Despotovski] as well. They’ve got a lot to play for, as well as us.
“I feel like all the players in the Grand Final [this season] have a lot of experience being there, so I think it’s gonna be a cracker of a match.”
This may be Sydney’s biggest challenge yet. The Sky Blues have only played Perth once this season, losing 2-1 away from home thanks to a Sam Kerr brace that included a soaring header in the 85th minute.
Kennedy has her sights set on the W-League Golden Boot winner, as well as Kerr’s strike-partner Rachel Hill, who currently leads the league in assists.
“Obviously we’ve got some great players we’re coming up against in Sam Kerr and Rachel Hill, so we’re looking to shut them down,” she said.
“It’s as simple as that. We just need to be tight on them and be ready for anything in behind. Hopefully, we’ll have the midfield stop their service and that will make our job easier.
“I am a bit of a leader back there, but we have so many great [defensive] players. I do know that in every game I have to be quite vocal and I know that some of the players look to me to lead that line.”
Foord is also well-prepared and relishing her growing responsibilities on the pitch.
As the league’s second-highest goal scorer, the Sky Blues have often depended upon Foord’s quality up front to keep their campaign alive.
“That’s where I want to be,” she said. “I want to be one of those players that my team relies on. That’s a good feeling.
“Even looking back to see I’ve scored nine goals this season, I’m so stoked at that.
“The other day at training, Alanna [Kennedy] said to me, ‘you’ve really improved in front of goal, your finishing is so good now.’ That’s something that means a lot to me… because that’s something I’ve been working on, so to see results is obviously massive.”
Coming up against her old club Perth Glory, however, Foord is ready for anything.
“When it’s finals, you could know the other team’s whole tactic book, but in that game it’s different,” she said.
“It’s so much more intense, everyone is up for the game, everything you know goes out the window because even if you know they’re gonna do it if they do it well, it’s still gonna work.
“We know what we’re coming up against, we’ve already played them once this season, we all watched the semi-final, we all know what Perth are capable of. I’ve said this all season: if our focus is on us and we as individuals and as a team get our jobs right, I honestly believe we can beat any team.
“The core group [we have] and the way our team takes the field together, when that’s one hundred percent and the best it can be, I believe we can beat anyone.”
Sydney FC will take on Perth Glory at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday at 4:30pm. The match will be broadcast live on SBS, Fox Sports 505, Kayo, and the My Football Live app.