VU-WESTERN Lightning has already provided the rags to riches story of the year for sport in the west.
The bolt-from-the-blue Lightning have come from a second-last finish 12 months ago to reach this year's Victorian Netball League championship division grand final.
The Lightning's thrilling one-goal win over the heavily-backed Monash University Central in last Wednesday night's preliminary final at the State Netball and Hockey Centre set up a mouth-watering first time all-western suburbs grand final.
Click on the image below for a gallery of the preliminary final clash.
Lightning secretary Chrissie Wasilewski told the Weekly of the sense of disbelief at arriving in the season decider from fourth place.
"This is a dream for us," she said.
"We're sitting on cloud nine. It has been sudden death all the way for us.
"We saw our last game of the season as our first final. We had to win to be guaranteed a spot in the finals."
The Lightning's month of perform-or-perish matches began on June 30 when they rolled Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels to reach the finals.
They had a somewhat out-of-character shoot-out in a double extra time semi-final win over Peninsula Waves.
If you thought the finals underdogs were done, think again.
On Wednesday, they showed the kind of resilience at the defensive end that made them a contender in the first place with a 33-32 win over Monash University Central.
In the words of Wasilewski: "It was a nail-biter". There was little to separate the two sides throughout the match.
The Lightning's defensive set-up of Brooke Thompson, Fiona Themann and Madeline Carter had a massive say in the outcome.
Thompson and Themann drew praise for their loyalty to the Lightning.
"Our defensive end is absolutely brilliant," Wasilewski said. "I can't praise Brooke Thompson and Fiona Themann highly enough.
"They've both been loyal to the club and the dividends are paying off."
The Lightning would not have arrived at this point in the season without the influence of head coach Matt Hills. The second-year coach knows how to get the best out of his players.
Hills has lifted the professionalism at the club with new training methods and a strong tactical nous.
The biggest difference at the Lightning is having all three teams – the championship, division 1 and under-19s – unified and heading in the one direction.
"Matt has made a big difference to this club," Wasilewski said.
"The players have his respect and they respect him. They're training harder, training more and at a higher intensity.
"It is being treated more as an elite squad."
The Lightning will undoubtedly go into the grand final as the underdogs.
The Falcons, with the best record and having breezed through the first week of the finals, deserve to be the favourites.
That is not to say the Lightning does not have a few things going for them.
The Lightning is arguably the most battle-hardened team, having played three high-intensity games in the lead-up to the finals, while the Falcons had a nervous 17-day break.
And, the Lightning were one of a few teams to ruffle the Falcons feathers in the regular season, splitting the head-to-head record at one-all.
"Do we have the ability to beat them?" Wasilewski said.
"I believe we can."
Whatever side of the fence you are on, it is going to be one of the great western suburbs sporting events of the year and certainly one not to be missed.
VNL GRAND FINAL
City West Falcons v VU-Western Lightning
State Netball and Hockey Centre