OLD CANBERRANS will contest their first women's first grade grand final when they take on ANU at the National Hockey Centre at Lyneham this afternoon.
And new recruit Steph Andrews has provided the extra leadership needed to get them there, according to Checks coach Ray Dorsett.
''The real gain we've had this year is Steph Andrews,'' Dorsett said. ''She has been the X-factor for us.''
Andrews, 24, moved from Perth to take up a coaching role with Hockey ACT this year. Several clubs chased her but jokes that she chose Checks for their Western Australia colours. ''They wear black and gold, so that was probably the factor in the end,'' Andrews said.
But the big reason was Dorsett. Andrews knew him as the High Performance Manager of the Hockey Australia program in Perth and she is good friends with his daughter.
Her arrival signalled the progression to the final for the first time in the club's history, which elevated a first grade side of teenagers to the women's competition in 2006, after more than two decades out of the top level.
''Over the last two or three years we've been competitive in finals … competitive in the rounds, but we've never had a real on-field leader because they're all so young,'' Dorsett said. ''What Steph has brought to the group is leadership, guidance, and a real camaraderie in regards to team culture.''
Andrews is modest about credit for her leadership, but admits as the oldest in the team, she falls into it.
''I kinda try not to [take a leadership role], just play and have a bit of a break … obviously I coach, so that helps on field a little bit as well no doubt,'' she said.
Dorsett also credits the development of his captain, Kate Gilmore, with the team's success.
''This time 12 months ago, Kate was struggling to get into a Strikers group,'' he said. ''She wasn't quite sure where she fitted into the representative scene, and all of a sudden she's ACT under 21's best and fairest, she polled well in the McKay Medal, she's in the Team of the Year at centre half, which is the key position.
''To push someone like [McKay Medal winner] Emma Taylor out of centre half, for her to be in there … and Kate's only 19 years of age.''
Women's Capital League grand final: Old Canberrans v ANU at National Hockey Centre, Lyneham, 4pm.