AS they sat watching a cricket match, Abbey Thompson thought The Rock-Yerong Creek netball coach Sarah O'Leary was joking when she asked her to play first grade with the Magpies.
It's understandable the wing attack didn't feel the question was a legitimate one. At the time she had come off a season of B-grade with Collingullie-Glenfield Park, and was expecting to play A-reserves for TRYC.
Playing for the Magpies' all-conquering first grade side, who had won the previous two flags, seemed a world away, let alone being rated good enough for the step up by one of the Riverina's best players.
She's still pinching herself she will don the black and white dress in Saturday's Farrer League grand final against Charles Sturt University at Robertson Oval.
"It was the cricket grand final and we were sitting together when she (O'Leary) asked me if I wanted to play (first grade)," Thompson said.
"I thought she was kidding. I was so scared the first game, but every match has been a confidence boost.
"Considering where I was last year and the level of netball I was playing, it's so different. It helps a lot with my confidence with netball, it's such an exciting feel and to actually be in it (grand final) now is so surreal."
TRCY has forged a strong rivalry with CSU after beating them in the past two grand finals, but the Bushsows will be confident after ending the Magpies' unbeaten run in the qualifying final a fortnight ago.
After a three-week lay-off beforehand, it did allow the Magpies to get an extra game under their belts in last week's 28-goal preliminary final win over North Wagga.
"I suppose I do put a bit of pressure on myself because I don't have the experience the other girls have, but they don't make you feel like you're not as good because of that," Thompson said.
"The first time we played CSU I put a lot of pressure on myself, I was really nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect. But it's got easier every time because you trust your team and you back yourself.
"As much as we wanted it (final game against CSU) to be OK after three weeks off we were maybe a bit complacent about it.
"We weren't negative afterward, we took things from it and applied it to our game, we're more than ready."
O'Leary and Thompson have long been good friends and the star defender always suspected she had a diamond in the rough on her hands.
"She played B grade last year at Gullie and I watched a few of her games and I knew how much potential she had," O'Leary said.
"She came to Rock and started playing A-res and I said 'no, she has so much more potential'.
"She's slotted in amazing into our team, she provides some really good drives in our attacking end and feeds well into the circle.
"It's her first year in A-grade and she's about to play in a grand final, it's an awesome achievement."
After winning a C-grade grand final with the Demons in 2017, Thompson is ready for the big stage.