Bendigo Spirit coach Bernie Harrower is confident his side can make a run to the finals on the eve of the Womens National Basketball League season, that tips off tonight.
Almost two weeks after winning their first piece of silverware in the WNBL preseason tournament, the Spirit face a difficult start to the regular season, facing the three top teams of season 2011-12 four times in the club’s first six games.
The Spirit face last year’s minor premiers Adelaide Link Lightning tonight, before playing West Coast tomorrow and backing that up with a double-header against Bulleen and Dandenong next weekend.
Harrower remains upbeat about the team’s finals prospects though, saying he believes they can be somewhat of a surprise packet and make a push toward finals action this year.
“I’m very confident in the group of girls we have,” Harrower, who is entering his sixth year as coach, said.
“Last year our starting five was good, but when we went to the bench our play really fell away. This year we have a really strong bench, and that should help us go further than last year.”
They will face the first weekend without star recruit and 2012 SEABL Most Valuable Player Renae Camino, who has been ruled out of the weekend’s games with a calf injury.
“We decided to err on the side of caution with Renae, the team physio told me that if we took her in and she did more damage we could lose her for five to six weeks as opposed to just one,” Harrower said.
“Gabe (Richards) has ongoing issues with her knee, Kelly (Wilson) also has a knee niggle, Chantella (Perera) has a sore back and Kristi (Harrower) is limited in practice so we can keep her fresh for games, but they will all be right to go.”
The Spirit has welcomed several new players this year, including former Bulleen Boomer Chantella Perera, and young guns Madeleine Garrick and Ebony Antonio, and Harrower said the group has jelled well.
“The most pleasing part of the pre-season tournament was the style of play, how the new players had picked it up and the chemistry between the girls that was on display,” he said.
“I’m happy with the progress we’ve made so far, but we know we’ll improve throughout the season.
“Once we get some games at home, get players fully fit and just fine tune what we’re doing then we’ll continue to improve and hopefully make a run toward the finals.”