Final days in the WBBL hub could be the best for the Melbourne Stars who are vying for first title

From the darkness of extra time in quarantine to the light of exiting the WBBL hub, potentially as champions, Melbourne Stars captain Meg Lanning said “playing with a smile” has been her team’s driving force.

The Stars are on the verge of mirroring the efforts of Richmond, the Melbourne Storm and Vixens who took out the AFL, NRL and Super Netball titles respectively in 2020, all playing out of a “bubble” a long way from home.

Lanning, also the Australian captain, said six weeks in the playing hub in Sydney had posed a “unique” challenge, which for the Victorian members of her team required extra time in quarantine, moving when the state was at the height of its COVID-19 second wave.

But a season-long theme to have as much fun as possible, and using time together to “become closer”, has put the green team within touching distance of the Stars’ first WBBL, or BBL, title and another win for Victoria in Saturday’s final against the Sydney Thunder.

“It has been a unique experience and I know the Vic girls who are in this hub, during the quarantine period, went though a pretty tough time initially, and it has brought everyone closer together,” Lanning said on Friday.

“We have a new appreciation for each other and really know each other so well. I think that puts us in a good position to have as much fun as we can. We’ll certainly be looking to add another one to the cabinet.”

And then there were two! ⭐⚡@ThunderBBL @StarsBBL #WBBLFinals

The Stars, $1.50 TAB favourites to win, had never even made the WBBL finals before Lanning returned this season and Trent Woodhill was brought in as coach, a combination that has taken them from the bottom to the top.

Lanning said two keys of the team strategy, implemented by Woodhill, were to “switch off” in the hub and then dial in on match day with a focus on having fun.

“The theme throughout the tournament has been about having fun and having a smile on your face but also really chasing the game and being aggressive. That’s what has got us to the final, and we want to replicate that,” Lanning said.

“The other thing we have done really well is have time on at cricket and then being able to switch off. It can be difficult in the hub to escape cricket, it seems to follow you everywhere … running into opposition teams, cricket being on TV.

“Having that freedom had played a really big role in keeping us fresh.”

The Sydney Thunder were buzzing after their big semi-final win set up a WBBL final showdown with the Melbourne Stars. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Lanning said everyone could “see the finish line”, with a hub exit looming after the final.

But the skipper, who has won everything in cricket except a WBBL title, wants to take some extra baggage with her back to Melbourne.

“Being in the final certainly makes it easier given it has been a long time away,” she said.

“It’s been a challenging time … but knowing we’ve got one more game, and a couple more days, certainly gives everyone a lift.

“We’ve done a great job to get where we are, it’s been a lot of fun, but we came here to win the tournament.”

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