Top spot in the Women’s National Basketball League is Bendigo’s to lose – with the Spirit facing the easiest run home of any team.
With seven rounds remaining, Bendigo is two wins clear on top of the ladder and plays six home games in the New Year – the most of any club.
And the Spirit only plays teams presently in the top-four three times – Adelaide once and Townsville twice – with only cellar-dweller West Coast facing fewer top sides.
However, Spirit coach Bernie Harrower knows all too well the desperation the lower-placed sides will have in the final rounds, having been in that position in previous years.
“We’re now at the business end of the season, everyone’s going to be jockeying for position,” Harrower said.
“Even down to Canberra, those teams are still in the hunt if they can get their act together over the last eight or nine games.
“Everybody says you can have an easier draw, but when you actually look at it when those teams are trying to make play-offs they’re going to be going hard.
“The important thing for me is how we come out of the Christmas-New Year break.
“I think any of the top-five teams can win the championship if they’re playing well enough after the Christmas break.”
Bendigo’s 13-2 record has defied all expectations this season and the Spirit’s ability to win eight of nine games on the road has put it in a strong position.
“That’s the important part – all those away games we won at the start of the year. That’s the secret to our success so far,” Harrower said.
“We’ve still got two games against Sydney and two games against Townsville and they’re two teams that are playing a lot better now than what they were at the start of the year.
“But the advantage is playing those four games in Bendigo. The toughest away game we have is Adelaide in Adelaide.
“It will all depend on how we go at home, if we can do what we have done so far on the road then top spot is there to be won, that’s for sure.”
By finishing on top, Bendigo can give itself the chance to host a semi-final in the first week of finals, followed by potentially a home grand final if it wins the semi or a home preliminary final if it loses.
But Harrower isn’t worrying about that outcome just yet, instead focusing on preparing his team to face Bulleen at Bendigo Stadium next Saturday night.
The Spirit resumes training today after a short break and the players can expect to be pushed by Harrower for the remainder of the season.
“You want to miss out because you’re not good enough, not because you didn’t work hard enough. That’s the thing I’ll be trying to make my group understand,” he said.