Extra motivation for finals: Special moments to enjoy
FOOTBALL: With three exciting teams in finals this weekend, including two playing at home, Western Pride head coach Reg Davani delivered a fitting message.
"We have to enjoy these moments,'' he said. "They don't come around that often when you're playing and you need to make the most of it.''
Preparing for a massive two days for the Ipswich club, Davani said all three teams had enough quality to advance further in this year's National Premier Leagues finals series.
Pride's under-18 team open the charge at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex in Saturday's 3pm match against Brisbane Roar. The Hayden Mchenery coached Pride side finished the regular season in third and must beat second-placed Roar to progress further.
Pride's under-20 side then plays Brisbane Roar at the same venue at 6pm. That is also a battle between the second (Pride) and third-placed teams.
Promising defender Jordan Manning has been a player/coach of the under-20s, working with former head coach Graham Harvey and later Davani this season.
Davani was happy Roar agreed to play both games in Ipswich, mainly because it allows both clubs the opportunity to share under-18 and under-20 players in such important games.
"Both sides are capable of going to the finals,'' Davani said. "It's just about having the right mentality on the day.''
After Saturday's mouth-watering contests, Pride's defending state league champion side set about making another grand final.
Third-placed Pride tackle second-place finishers Olympic in what shapes as a classic duel at Yeronga on Sunday.
Olympic beat Pride 3-2 in Ipswich in February before holding on for a 1-0 victory at home in May.
Davani said that second clash was a pivotal point in Pride's season after they played a majority of the second half with a man down and nearly secured a point.
"I would say that was a turning point in our year,'' he said of the tenacious performance.
"It was just the character and the togetherness that the team showed and we had other similar situations like that throughout the year where everyone had to work together as a group and help each other through a tough period.
"When I saw that performance (against Olympic), I was taken aback. The group were amazing that night.''
Since then, Pride shared the competition lead with Olympic at stages before Lions took control in recent weeks.
But as most coaches highlight at this time of the year, finals are a different ball game.
"It's really about who wants it the most,'' Davani said.
"All that stuff before about where you finish on the table, form . . . all that doesn't matter now.''
Pride's senior side have been boosted by the return of defender Hayden Mchenery, who was rested last week with groin soreness.
"Hayden's good. He's set to go,'' Davani said. "Last week was precautionary . . . to save him for this week, which is what really counts.
"The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a juggling act with suspensions and injuries and things like that but this week we've got everyone back apart from Maxie (injured goalkeeper Max Davison).''
With plenty to play for in all three NPL grades, Davani praised Manning and Mchenery for their coaching efforts.
"I've stepped in when I've had to but it's really the Hayden and Jordan show and they've done an amazing job this year,'' Davani said.
NPL semi-final: Sunday (3pm) - Western Pride v Olympic at Goodwin Park, Yeronga.
Other semi-final: Lions v Moreton Bay United.
NPL U18 semi-final: Saturday 3pm) - Western Pride v Brisbane Roar at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
NPL U20 semi-final: Saturday (6pm) - Western Pride v Brisbane Roar at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.