SHE’S only just returned from the United States but key Monaro Panthers defender Steph Coates is out to prove the truth behind the old adage that it’s better late than never.
Coates will line up at centre-back for the Panthers against Belconnen United in this weekend’s ACT Women’s Premier League grand final at Hawker.
The 18-year-old will do so with just 90 minutes of football under her belt having flown back into Australia in time for the side’s 1-0 elimination-final victory over Canberra FC last weekend.
Coates, who coach Angelo Maralit labels the key to the Panthers’ defence, has spent the past two months working in a summer camp in Wisconsin.
Having missed the second half of Monaro’s campaign, the teenager was a welcome addition to the side’s line up against Canberra.
And Coates will likely prove crucial if the Panthers are to be a chance of upsetting Belconnen in Saturday’s grand final.
The former Woden Valley stopper said her return to the field last weekend had proven a “shock to the system” but said she was just happy to be back in time to play a part in Monaro’s finals campaign.
“I was obviously pretty nervous given it was my first match back in a pretty big game but as soon as I got that first touch it all came rushing back to me,” she said. “I didn’t do anything amazing but I think I held up ok for a first game back.
“It worked out to be good timing in the end [coming back from America]. It was a bit of a shock to the system having to get back into it straight away but it’s good to be back.”
The Panthers will be looking to cap a remarkable rise in the Women’s Premier League in Saturday’s decider with the club having only entered the competition this season.
They’ll be underdogs against a Belconnen side stacked with W-League talent that hasn’t lost a game all season.
But Coates said while they may not boast the big names of their Canberra opponents, the Panthers had proved their ability to compete on equal footing with the heavyweights.
The last time the two sides clashed in the semi-finals just a fortnight ago saw United escape with a narrow 2-1 win.
“I think because it’s Monaro’s first year in the Premier League and all the girls have come from different clubs, we’ve all really had to band together this season,” Coates said.
“They’ve got a stacked team but we’ve got the teamwork and the fire in the belly that maybe Belconnen doesn’t have. We work for each other and that’s what gets us over the line.”