Polly Doran is on the verge of claiming back-to-back A-League Women championships but for a few hours the Melbourne Victory full-back thought she would miss her second Grand Final.
When Doran was booked in the 72nd minute of Victory’s preliminary final win over Melbourne City on Sunday, she was temporarily devastated.
Coach Jeff Hopkins and Doran mistakenly believed yellow cards in consecutive finals, after a booking against Adelaide the previous week, would rule the right-back out of the decider, until the league corrected them on Sunday night.
“I’ve stuck my foot out probably a little bit too far and ended up getting the yellow,” Doran told reporters on Tuesday.
“In that moment, my head was gone for a second there and it took me a minute to get my head back in the game and then, just played it out as normal.
“Afterwards, I was happy obviously that we’re in the grand final then starting to think ‘a bit stiff, now I’m going to miss out on the grand final’.
“It wasn’t until later that night that I found out that the suspension wasn’t going to happen. It was a big relief and a lot of stress off my shoulders.”
Doran, 20, and central defender Claudia Bunge have been the two mainstays of a Victory defence that’s been hit by departures and injuries since last season’s grand final.
Goalkeeper Gaby Garton (pregnancy) sat out the season, but has been ably replaced by Casey Dumont in her return from an achilles injury.
Courtney Nevin stepped in for Angela Beard (overseas) while Brooke Hendrix has proved a stabilising late-season signing in the heart of defence after Kayla Morrison’s first-round ACL tear “rattled” Victory.
“I wouldn’t swap any of them,” Hopkins said.
“They’re all in really good form at the moment.
“The back four are working really well as a unit and with Casey in behind them just marshalling them, we’re really solid.”
They’ll need to be top of their game to handle Sydney FC’s array of devastating forwards, led by Cortnee Vine, Remy Siemsen and Princess Ibini.
Doran excelled in last season’s grand final win and believed that experience would hold her in good stead.
“Their players thrive on confidence,” she said.
“So if you try and shut them down early and don’t give them that chance to get the upper hand in the game and get dominance over us, it’s important.
“So (we’ll) try and get in their heads early.”