Before the start of the 2015/16 Wattle Valley WNBL season, take a look at how the Bendigo Spirit are shaping up.
Last Year: 15-7, lost in Grand Final.
Departed: Chelsea Aubry, Sara Blicavs, Kristi Harrower, Maddie Garrick, Tessa Lavey, Elyse Penaluna, Tayla Roberts.
Returning: Jane Chalmers, Kelsey Griffin, Heather Oliver, Gabrielle Richards, Belinda Snell, Andrea Wilson, Kelly Wilson.
Newcomers: Joy Burke, Kerryn Harrington, Molly Matthews, Sarah McAppion, Ebony Rolph, Ashleigh Spencer.
Kick off their season on the road against the new South East Queensland roster, followed by the defending champions Townsville in a Grand Final rematch. Of their first seven games they only play two at home, but do encounter a nice stretch over December through to February playing seven out of eight games at Bendigo Stadium.
Retain their veteran presence and a core group of their starting five, with Kelsey Griffin, Gabe Richards, Belinda Snell and Kelly Wilson. Add 196cm import Joy Burke to the roster and they have one of the best starting groups in the competition who will be very tough to guard.
Have lost a fair bit of their depth such as Maddie Garrick and Tessa Lavey that were starved of opportunities last season while Sara Blicavs’ departure forms a big hole in their roster after a great season in 2014/15. With three of their four stars 30 years or older in Richards, Wilson and Snell, they may struggle if injuries were to occur, while their core group may take some time to adjust to new coach Simon Pritchard’s approach.
Watch out for…
Centre Joy Burke represented Chinese Taipei at the recent FIBA Asia Women’s Championships, where she averaged 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Will certainly be an asset to the Spirit, taking some attention away from Richards and Griffin.
Despite their starting line-up being one of the betters ones in the league, their depth will certainly be challenged across the season. Been a powerhouse over the last few years, but this year could be different.