Home is where the heart is for London Pulse star Funmi Fadoju, and where the glory lies too.
The Ilford-born defender is preparing for back-to-back games at the Copper Box Arena, but these are no ordinary matches, they are the semi-final and Grand Final of the Netball Super League.
It marks a meteoric rise for Fadoju who has been with Pulse since its inception and has helped guide the club to the top of the table for the first time this season.
“Half the team have grown up through the same age groups and programmes together,” the 20-year-old said.
“And it’s great to look at where we are now and see that we’re helping the new set of young girls come through.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching some of our young training partners play, Jade Popoola made her debut against Celtic Dragons and made some great interceptions. It’s brilliant to see that depth.
“London is where most of us grew up, so to play a home Grand Final is great.
“Last year, we got close but it just wasn’t enough. This year, we’re proving to ourselves that we can make it through to those final moment and challenge for the title.
“We can bring out an amazing performance and smash it.”
Pulse claimed their best-ever finish last year by coming fourth but 2023 has seen them soar to even greater heights.
They will now take on local rivals Surrey Storm in the semi-finals on Friday evening with first centre pass at 6:30pm.
The difference between last season, which ended in semi-final defeat to eventual champions Manchester Thunder, and this one has been a touch of telepathy.
“Compared to last season, we’ve definitely built more connections between each player,” she said.
“It’s all about seeing what works for us and learning how to turnover the ball more.
“Last year was one of the best seasons ever for us as a club, it was amazing. But we still knew we could do better and that was always the aim this year.
“As an individual, I wanted to just improve myself. People know what I do now after a few seasons in the NSL and now it’s time to change it up.
“At the start of the season, we were a little bit rocky and still trying to figure out how to play with each other. Now I know exactly what Chelsea is going to do before she even does it.
“It’s having that time together to build and know how each person plays that’s led to our success.
“We have a winning mentality now and we know what we need to do to get to the top.”
Fadoju is more than just a mind-reader on court – she’s also a social butterfly off it.
From meals out in Shoreditch to weekend cinema trips, the Queen Mary University of London student loves spending time with her teammates and believes their off-court bond is another factor behind this season’s success.
“We’re a little crazy and a little weird but we love that,” she said.
“Off-court, we do a lot of team bonding. We try and do some games nights and everyone is really kind and open.
“We’re trying to plan an escape room at the moment as well as a big night out after finals.
“Lindsay [Keable] would be great in an escape room, she would be on it, she knows everything about anything whilst Jade [Clarke] loves quizzes, so you know she would be great.
“On the other side, I don’t think I’d be good and if we went to a horror one. Liv [Tchine] would just be in the corner scared!
“We would all try to contribute though, as we always do.”
The Netball Super League Grand Final is being shown live on Sky Sports Arena and YouTube from 1.45pm on Sunday 11 June. The Netball Super League is the UK’s elite domestic netball competition and features ten teams from England, Wales and Scotland. For more information visit netballsl.com