With just four days left until the AUL grand final between the Sydney Suns and the Brisbane Breakers, we run the rule over the stats that could decide the outcome.
Defence: Will Brisbane be able to adapt to the loss of its stars?
When it comes to defence, Brisbane had some clear-cut leaders at denying other teams’ goals.
Rachel Parsons and Brett Matzuka both had eight blocks for the season while Liam Grimmond had seven, all three players finishing in the top 10 defensive players in the entire league.
Ava Mueller was also instrumental, finishing in 11th spot with six blocks.
Sydney tend to share the load defensively with Mark Evans topping their block count with six, while Sarah Wentworth and Tom Rogacki had four each and Kya Wiya, Dave Andrews and Mark Wee had three each.
Defence played a key role in the previous meeting of these two teams, which was won by Sydney in a low-scoring grind. Brisbane cannot afford to let Sydney off the chain but with Matzuka in particular missing, the rest of the players are going to have to pick up his defensive load.
These could go a long way towards deciding the result of this grand final, however could be an opportunity for heroes in waiting to shine amongst the Breakers including Lyra Meehan, Rosa Wang and Loughlin Murphy to step up to the plate.
An added incentive for Wang is that she has the potential to win back-to-back league titles having won with the Melbourne Flames in 2018.
Playmaking: Sydney’s dominance built on assists
Of all the stats from the season, Tom Rogacki’s 28 assists from five matches stands tall as the most dominant.
The veteran of the league is showing no signs of slowing down at 42 and he finished nine assists clear at the top of the league table.
He has had the disc on a string and has been able to find his players in attacking position with ease.
As if the influence of Rogacki wasn’t enough, Brisbane will also have to contend with losing their star throwers John McNaughton (14 assists) and Matzuka (13 assists) for the grand final and top female goal scorer in Dom Simpson (9 goals)
Sydney is not a one-trick pony either, as Mark Evans (14 assists) and Alex Ladomatos (13 assists) also played commanding roles in finding goal-scoring opportunities.
Sydney also boasts a tried and tested experienced line-up in Rosie Dawson , Dani Alexander and Sarah Wentworth having represented Australia on many occasions. Young guns Kya Wiya and David Andrews will be no exception to this.
Townsville’s Kat Smith and Liam Grimmond loom as Brisbane biggest weapon in offence after they finished the season with 11 assists. The Breakers finished with three of their players, McNaughton, Matzuka and Smith within the top 10 assists of the league.
But newly minted Breakers Alex Leask, Elliott Cook and Rebekah Ziegman can’t just make up their numbers in the season debut in the grand final. They are going to need to put their stamp on the game or risk watching Sydney run away with it all.
Attack: Sydney boast threats all over the park
The women of Sydney were lethal in finding themselves in goal-scoring space this season.
Wollongong’s Rosie Dawson (14 goals) finished second overall in the AUL while Dani Alexander (10 goals) was seventh. They were ably supported by Andrews, Wee and Ladomatos who had nine goals apiece.
Put simple, Sydney have threats all over the park with the likes of Sarah Perkins and M Evans also potent in attack.
Not only has Brisbane been weakened in defence through the loss of Matzuka, but one of their primary goal sneaks Dom Simpson (nine goals for the season) is out through injury as well.
The Breakers have shots left to fire, especially with Sam McGuckin topping the league in goals this season with 15. Parsons and Braden Cheng had eight goals as well and will need to be productive in the grand final.
But the bottom line is that the season debutants face a trial by fire and simply must produce on the offensive end for Brisbane to have a chance.