Midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby is “ecstatic” to be gearing up for her fourth Grand Final after helping Sydney FC through a season she reckons has been one of the club’s “most challenging”.
The Sky Blues face Western United at Commbank Stadium at 4pm on Sunday with a Champions crown on the line.
And despite entering the arena as the 2022/23 Premiership winners, honest Hawkesby admits the campaign has not been plain sailing.
She said: “For me, it has been one of the most challenging seasons.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs, with some hiccups on the way. There have been some tough losses and some injuries but also some amazing wins – and the way we bounced back showed how incredible this team is.
“Getting to the Grand Final is huge for us and winning the Premiership was massive.”
Those injuries include losing Taylor Ray for the season and defender Charlotte McLean & keeper Jada Whyman for key games during the run in.
But Ante Juric’s resilient side kept on bouncing back. Never more so than when they overcame Melbourne Victory last Saturday with a dramatic late winner to lock in a Grand Final spot, The win came after losing to Western United in the first Semi-Final at Allianz Stadium.
“We are ecstatic to be in the Grand Final. It means a lot to us. After losing the first semi we knew we had to redeem ourselves and I’m pleased and excited we are in another Grand Final,” the 23-year-old said.
“The loss to Western United…we will take a lot of learnings from it. We have played each other three times this season so we know each other quite well.
“Losing the semi-final was difficult, but this is another game. We have learned a lot and adapted and the win last week has given us a lot of confidence coming into the Grand Final.’’
But Hawkesby won’t be underestimating the Victorian club, who have defied the odds by landing a spot in the Big Dance in their debut campaign.
“I think Western have had an incredible season for their first year in the league. I feel both of us definitely deserve to be in the Grand Final this season,” she added.
But just reaching the showpiece game is not enough for the midfielder after three years of disappointment.
Even though Sydney FC are running out for a sixth consecutive Grand Final appearance – their only win in that time was the 4-2 victory over Perth Glory in 2019. The season before Hawkesby joined the club.
“I’m very excited. This is my fourth Grand Final and Sydney FC’s sixth consecutive Grand Final,” she said.
“But we haven’t won a Grand Final for a few years so I am desperate for the win – all of the girls are. So, we have to give everything from the heart in this game to give us a chance of winning this.”