Since round one of the Women’s National Basketball League season the Bendigo Bank Spirit has been on top of the ladder – but only now are they championship favourites.
Outsiders with betting agencies all season, the Spirit has been reeled in to favouritism on the eve of finals after its 21-3 season.
Bookmakers have the Spirit between $2.20 or $2.30 chances to claim its first title, with its opponents in Sunday’s second semi-final, defending champions Dandenong, on the next line at between $2.50 and $2.75.
Adelaide Lightning, increasingly viewed as a serious title contender on the back of a seven-game winning streak, looks good value at $4, while Townsville has been written off at $41 and above.
“That’s very interesting,” Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said of the odds.
“From my point of view I’d rather be the underdog and most of the basketball people still see Dandenong and Adelaide as the teams to beat.
“That’s the way I personally like it, I think it would be good for us to be the underdogs and know that we’re fighting tooth and nail in every game that we play.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve done all year anyway.
“As much as we’ve beaten Adelaide twice and Dandenong three times, the game is still there to be won and finals are different.”
The Spirit has battled for respect since its inception into the league in 2007-08 and Harrower knows the best way to achieve that is by winning the championship.
“All that stuff (odds), it’s like finishing on top, everything we’ve done now doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
“What we’ve done is given ourselves the opportunity to play on our home court through finals and all what’s gone before – finishing two games clear on top – it doesn’t mean anything now.
“Now what it’s about is coming out strong on Sunday, winning the game and being able to go straight to the grand final.”
Harrower wasn’t surprised Canberra coach Carrie Graf and Logan coach Jason Chainey told the Bendigo Advertiser that Adelaide was the Spirit’s biggest title threat.
Although the Lightning finished third, it has momentum and arguably the most talented roster in the league.
“I suppose that’s based around the results over the past five or six weeks.
“They’ve beaten Dandenong on their home court twice, they beat us on the back end of a road double, but we’ve had seven or eight game winning streaks this year too and they all get busted,” Harrower said.
“We feel good about ourselves going into finals, if the bookies want to say we’re favourites – great – if everyone else wants to say Adelaide are favourites – great – because we’ll gladly go in underdogs, it doesn’t worry me.”
The Spirit’s match against Dandenong this Sunday tips off at 4pm and tickets are available from the Bendigo Stadium box office, online at www.bendigostadium.com.au or by calling 5440 6214.
All seats are allocated and cost $28 for adults, $18 for children and $25 for concession.