For Melbourne Vixens star Madison Browne the seeds of her team's successful season were sown in the opening month of the trans-Tasman season.
The Vixens began the year with muted expectations following an unsuccessful 2011 and the loss of veteran shooter Sharelle McMahon, who became pregnant in the months leading into the season.
To top it all off the Vixens were drawn to play their first three games away from home with an opening-round match against reigning champions Queensland Firebirds followed by trips to Adelaide and Perth and a home game against New Zealand premiership chance Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
The naysayers had the Vixens pegged for four losses, breaking even looked a chance, four straight wins highly unlikely.
Hence the ample servings of humble pie when the Vixens not only upset the Firebirds but won their first six games.
Browne said the road opening had pulled the Vixens together and steeled them for a run at the title.
''I honestly think it was a godsend,'' Browne said. ''Playing the first games away and knowing our season could end right there and then set us up. We got to spend time away as a group and got to know each other and appreciate each other.''
The Vixens host the grand final against the Magic at Hisense Arena tomorrow at 2.30pm and Browne believes the Vixens' mindset in the opening minutes will decide their success. ''It's do or die,'' she said. ''Watching previous grand finals, the first few minutes are erratic so it's all about settling into the game.
''There is that rush of adrenalin, then you have to settle into the groove and be ready to go.''
Like most elite netballers, Browne works full-time, as a teacher with a training company in Geelong. Her workmates kindly took on her duties this week as the Australian squad member wanted to experience grand final week in all its glory.
''I didn't want to be missing out on things, on the whole vibe and excitement,'' she said.
Browne will play in her first grand final tomorrow. Considering she admitted to getting ''sweaty hands'' watching the Magic's preliminary final win on Monday night, she was expecting some game-day nerves.
But to Browne those nerves are just part of the grand final experience and one more obstacle on the road to victory. ''There will be that anxious, exciting vibe. There will be a lot of emotion but you just have to get your game face on and put everything on the line for the win,'' she said.
- FFX Aus
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