The Bendigo Spirit did not have the best of luck last season. They were riddled with injuries and COVID-19 protocols that led to major shifts in chemistry, momentum, and lineup changes for the coaching staff. Opals star Leilani Mitchell only played in four games due to pregnancy with her and her wife Mikaela Dombkins' baby, Elle.
Despite the 7-9 season, they boast one of the best players in the WNBL, Anneli Maley. Maley was awarded the league MVP after a season where she boasted extraordinary averages in points and rebounds. She averaged 19.9 points and a mind-boggling 15.6 rebounds per game. The 1.85 meter guard/forward put up statistics you'd expect from players in the post. Unfortunately, there was not enough support around her to complement her MVP season.
How they did last year
5th (seven wins, nine losses)
Bendigo was not a bad team by any means. No matter what a certain broadcaster said live on air, that team boasted talent with Maddie Garrick, Megan McKay, and Maley. There were just a lot of inconsistencies that weren't perfected until the end of the season when it was too little too late.
The Spirit went through a rough stretch of a six-game losing streak that lasted from rounds 3-11. It wasn't until rounds 14 and 15 where the team's three-game win streak came to fruition but at that point, Adelaide all but secured its spot into the postseason leaving, Bendigo fifth on the ladder.
Returning: Anneli Maley, Piper Dunlop, Tessa Lavey, Megan McKay, Cassidy McLean, Alex Wilson
Ins: Sophia Locandro (UC-Irvine), Alicia Froling (Canberra Capitals), Kelsey Griffin (Canberra Capitals), Abby Wehrung (Adelaide Lightning), Kelly Wilson (Canberra Capitals)
Outs: Maddie Garrick (Italy), Carly Boag, Dyani Avaniev, Mary Goulding, Demi Skinner, Alana Goodchild, Leilani Mitchell, Jennie Rintala, Isabella Stratford
No one likes to be called old but in the Spirits' case, this is in a positive way. Bendigo's biggest strength happens to be their age and experience. The Spirit brought in seasoned and exemplary veterans with ties to the city like Kelsey Griffin and Kelly Wilson.
With new head coach Kennedy Kereama in town, Bendigo wanted to bring in highly coveted and experienced veterans like the aforementioned two while keeping last season's core primarily in tact heading into the new era of Spirit basketball.
There are a few weaknesses that carry over from last season but with the additions of multifaceted players who will benefit the team, only one is particularly glaring - their three-point shooting.
Last season, Bendigo ranked dead last in three point shooting percentage with 29 per cent. The next worse team was Sydney with 29.9 per cent. An almost 10 per cent difference is glaring. They fill in that gap with Wehrung who shot 32.6 per cent from beyond-the-arc last season for Adelaide and Griffin who shot over 30 more threes than Wehrung for a 36 per cent clip.
In addition, Maley is more than capable of launching it from beyond-the-arc but that's one part of her game that needs polishing. With Garrick, - their primary three point shooter - gone it will be up to Wehrung, Griffin, Maley, and their other three point star Lavey to convert the three.
Prediction for 2022/23 WNBL season
Bendigo's placing could be difficult to determine for this coming season, because of the talent the team has brought in and their veteran presence. They filled in much needed holes with shooting and rebounding during free agency. With the talent of the teams ahead of them and uncertainty of how this roster will mesh, the Spirit may find themselves at the lower end of the ladder this season.
The Bendigo Spirit begins their 2022/23 WNBL season against the UC Capitals at National Convention Centre Canberra on Friday, November 4 from 6:30pm AEDT.
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