WHILE Melton Bloods strive for Ballarat Netball League finals in September, star player Brooke Thompson is hoping to taste success as early as this weekend.
The former Melbourne Vixens defender will anchor VU Western Lightning's challenge for the Victorian Netball League championship division title on Saturday night.
While the Bloods are hoping to gatecrash a Ballarat-based stranglehold on recent BNL netball titles, the Lightning are living an underdog story of their own in the state's top competition.
Thompson, affiliated to the Lightning through her national-league career with the Melbourne Kestrels, then Vixens, is hoping to upset the favourite one more time.
Perennial VNL contender City West Falcons will be VU Western Lightning's opponent on Saturday night.
Click on the image below for Lightning's thrilling one-point win over Monash Uni Central in the preliminary final.
Thompson grew up playing netball for Melton but until this year had resisted invitations to return to the court with the Bloods' seniors.
"I have a few friends involved at the club and since I stopped playing for the Vixens I'd always put off going back.
"Going back to outdoor netball, to asphalt, playing in the rain ... that kind of thing.
"They finally sucked me in. I said I'd only play a couple of games as a fill-in, then they asked if I wanted to play all season.
"It's felt really good, the sense of belonging to a club, how much fun the players have on the court. As a club from juniors up to the seniors, you can clearly see that [the players] all love being out there." Thompson said VU Western Lightning had remained her number-one commitment after her national league career ended.
The Lightning went to the wire just to make the top four, before a double-extra time epic to eliminate Peninsula Waves and last-second win in the preliminary final against Monash University Central last Wednesday.
"We're definitely battlers," Thompson said, "a team with heart.
"I do know a lot of the Falcons players quite well. I've played with against a few over the years.
"City West are a strong club and always have been. It's going to be a tough match, but we beat them earlier in the season so we know it's possible."
Melton accounted for Sunbury Lions 60-13 in BNL Agrade at the weekend to consolidate fourth on the ladder and are away at ladder leader Lake Wendouree this weekend.
"It's always going to be difficult against those top teams because they've been so solid for such a long time," Thompson said. "But that's not to say we can't knock them off come finals."