THE Mandurah Magic have qualified for a fifth Women’s SBL Grand Final and coach Randy Miegel is in his second after his association with the league began in 1992 with plenty of excitement surrounding the group heading into Friday night’s championship decider.
The Magic have played in those Women’s SBL Grand Finals of 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009 but have lost them all and with the men having yet to reach a Grand Final as well, the club is still chasing that maiden championship in the league.
Then there is Miegel who is now in his fourth season coaching the Magic women on the back of his 166-game playing career at the Goldfields Giants which included playing in the 1995 Grand Final Series against the South West Slammers.
Miegel is still chasing that championship dream himself and the Magic are looking to make history with a first SBL championship this Friday night as they take on the Perry Lakes Hawks in the Women’s Grand Final of 2017 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
As happy as Miegel is to have the Magic into the Grand Final after finishing the regular season in second position, beating the Perth Redbacks in two games in the quarter finals and the Lakeside Lightning in three games in the semi finals, by no means do they feel the job is done.
“I don’t really want to harp on the fact that history is there to be made if we can win, I just want to keep our focus on the game and in the back of their mind they all know where the club is at in terms of that,” Miegel said.
“But the excitement around the club now is all based on us trying to win, I don’t think we went too over the top after winning Game 3 and our focus quickly went onto what we need to do for the Grand Final.”
While Casey Mihovilovich is the standout legendary presence at the Magic have now nearly played 450 games with the club and having been there for all four of those previous Grand Final appearances, there’s a whole of group of players that Miegel has enjoyed coaching.
Captain Rachel Halleen might not receive much of the limelight but continues to be a tremendous leader, offensive contributor when called upon and brilliant defender that saw her do well against Lakeside’s Ali Schwagmeyer in the semi finals and now receive the job on Toni Farnworth in the Grand Final.
Then there’s the likes of Bree and Emma Klasztorny, Rachel Pettit, Morgan Ballantyne and Kasey Miegel who continue to perform strongly.
Combine that with star imports Nici Gilday and Carly Boag, and Miegel couldn’t be happier with the group he’s now taking into a Grand Final on Friday night.
“We’ve got those girls in that 25, 26 and 27-year-old age groups who I believe really deserve this chance and you don’t always get a lot of women who stick it out at that age when they get to those years in this league,” he said.
“But they are experienced, important players for us have a group of four or five who have been around a long time and this is a really good reward for them.”
While Miegel is feeling good about the way his Mandurah team is shaping up heading into the Grand Final and with their preparation following a tough semi-final series with the Lightning, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t expect it to go up another level against Perry Lakes.
Miegel is fully aware that the Lady Hawks will be a whole other challenge to try and overcome Friday night if the Magic want to claim that historic championship.
“They have finished top for a reason and they did beat us twice when we played them, but the first game we didn’t have Carly and they got on top of us,” he said.
“Then in the second game we played at home and we took a lot out of it and if we can learn from that and carry it into Saturday night it could help us.
“But we know they are a really talented side and we need to, as a coaching group, look at some video this week to come up with a game plan to try and contain them.”
As for his own journey, it has been a remarkable ride for Miegel to now be preparing to take part in the second SBL Grand Final of his career.
His first came back in 1995 when he was a player with the Goldfields Giants and the Game 2 of that three-game series ended on a half-court buzzer-beater to win the game and the title for the Slammers.
While it’s not a winning memory, Miegel still has a good bond with the players from that team especially considering it was the only Grand Final he got to play in at SBL level.
Now 22 years later, he is involved in a Grand Final again but he isn’t interested in any focus or glory for himself. He wants the players he has worked so closely with to now get the reward for the effort they have put in.
“It’s two different kettles of fish with one as a player and one as a coach now. Back to the Grand Final in 1995, that was the Giants’ first Grand Final and it was well supported by the Goldfields community,” Miegel said.
“We lost on the buzzer with a half-court shot in Game 2 and it was the only time there’s been a three-game series. They were really good times despite not getting the championship and that group of guys remains pretty close. Now these girls will always have this to remember no matter what the result.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)