THE season-opener at home and a match against arch-rival Ballarat on Anzac Day highlight the Bendigo Bank Braves’ fixture for the 2013 South East Australia Basketball League season.
The season tip-off on Friday, March 15 against Knox is the Braves’ only game at Bendigo Stadium from its first six matches.
Bendigo travels to Geelong, Canberra, Ballarat and Frankston in the early rounds, before what is sure to be a grudge match away to the Albury-Wodonga Bandits in round four.
Relations with the reigning champions have been soured after Braves coach Ben Harvey pulled off a recruiting coup by luring the Bandits’ star point guard Jazzmar Ferguson to Bendigo.
“I’m sure Albury aren’t happy with the move Jazz has made, he’s a great player and I’m sure when we go there the crowd won’t be too nice to him,” Harvey said.
“But I’m sure everyone will respect him as a player and a person because they can’t forget that he won them a championship.
“It’s a career move he wanted to make and that’s just the way it is.”
After the tough start on the road, the Braves will play eight of their next 11 matches at home, including the Thursday night Anzac Day clash with Ballarat.
“I think it’s fantastic, we’re the second best league in Australia and you’ve always got to find ways to better the competition,” Harvey said.
“Bendigo and Ballarat are great rivalry teams over the past, it’s healthy and I think it’s great for the league.”
The Braves got their preference for less Sunday afternoon matches – only two compared to five last season.
Bendigo will host four Friday night games and seven Saturday night games.
Harvey is mostly satisfied with the fixture, except for round 19 when the Braves host Albury-Wodonga on a Friday night before playing in Brisbane 24 hours later.
“We play Friday night then we go to Brisbane again for the second year running, that’s a bit tough, but you play the cards you’re dealt with,” he said.
The Braves squad is yet to be finalised for next season, although last year’s MVP Tom Garlepp is keen to return to Bendigo.
Garlepp is on track to play less than 20 minutes per game for the Sydney Kings in the NBL before mid-January, which will make him available to play for the Braves along with imports Ferguson and Ivan McFarlin.
“He wants to come back to Bendigo, he just needs to work out a plan with the Sydney Kings,” Harvey said.
Harvey is looking for an athletic tall to replace Adam Tanner as the club strives to win the national championship.
“I’m just looking forward to it, I’m excited to put the team together – we’ll find the player to suit us.”
The Bendigo Bank Braves’ fixture is available to download on the SEABL website.