2017/18 SEASON IN REVIEW: BENDIGO BANK SPIRIT
BENDIGO BANK SPIRIT
Wins – 4
Losses – 17
Standing – 8th
2016/17 result – 13 wins, 11 losses- 6th
What loomed as a tough season became even more difficult for Bendigo with injuries to key players but a positive to take out of those circumstances was the chance to give their young brigade more court time. Ashleigh Spencer notched a new career-high with 2.9 points per game on 38% shooting, Kara Tessari played 20 games while Maddison Wild and Ahlise Hurst found themselves consistently in the rotation. It was a baptism of fire for those players but it will only help them and the Spirit in the long term. Import Rachel Banham (12.6 points per game) was also a shining light via her ability to knock down the long-range ball while also finishing second for assists (2.6) and steals (1.1) for the club. The athletic Betnjiah Laney, who led the team with 14.7 points, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals, and veteran Gabe Richards (9.5 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds) did their best to hold down the front court as well with their efforts setting the standard for the rest of the side. A 106-71 thrashing of Perth in Round 2 was the highlight of the season as they shot 56% for the season, 12-22 from beyond the arc and led by as much as 37 at one stage.
After pushing through six games to start the season, Kelsey Griffin required surgery on a tear in her hip. It proved to be a season-ending injury and from there, Bendigo struggled for any success as they missed playoffs for a third consecutive season. Even before Griffin went down, the Spirit’s defence could not contain oppositions as they surrendered 83.4 points per game and by the end of Round 13, they owned the worst defence in the league at 86 points per contest while also recording the least amount of rebounds and assists overall.
Nadeen Payne proved she can be a main weapon in the WNBL as she once again filled whatever role was required of her this season for the Spirit. That led her to win the club MVP award after averaging 12.3 points and 1.9 assists (both career-highs) while shooting 40% from the three-point line and finishing fourth for the club in steals. She led the charge during Bendigo’s most impressive win of the season, when they defeated Perth by 35 points in Round 2, scoring 24 points on 8-11 shooting.
Bendigo will be banking on the return of a healthy Griffin next season and if their younger players can continue to develop, they will have a solid core for 2018/19. Their import pairing of Laney and Banham were strong and Laney may return for a third season in the WNBL but you would expect the club to be on the lookout for another overseas point guard to lead the team on court in 2018/19.
After playing four games over two years with the Spirit, Ebony Rolph was another player called upon to play big minutes this season. At 23 years of age, Rolph is a raw talent but showed signs she can be integral to the defensive end for Bendigo in the future as she finished third in the club for total blocks and sixth for steals while playing 12 minutes per contest. Coming off a SEABL Championship with Geelong, Rolph will be looking to carry momentum into an important year in 2018.