A NEAR full-strength Bendigo Lady Braves squad will take to the basketball court for tonight’s SEABL season-opening clash with Knox Raiders at Bendigo Stadium.
Lady Braves coach Jonathan Goodman was last night awaiting news from the league as to whether Bendigo Spirit star and WNBL grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin would be able to play against Knox or in tomorrow’s match at The Arena in Geelong.
The notable absentees from the line-up for round one are Andrea Wilson, who will be at sister Kelly’s wedding, and the injured Elyse Penaluna.
“We will have a strong team to play Knox and Geelong,” Goodman said.
Five days after playing in Spirit’s championship victory against Townsville, Renae Camino, Jane Chalmers, Maddie Garrick, Ebony Antonio and Rebecca Campigli will be on court against the Raiders and Supercats.
Another key inclusion is former captain and the Lady Braves MVP in 2011, Lauren King.
“To have Lauren back with us is a huge plus,” Goodman said.
King returns from a season’s break from the SEABL, but did play in the WNBL with Sydney University Flames.
“Lauren is a quality player and person,” said Goodman.
“Her experience and leadership will be important, especially for our younger players.”
Although the Lady Braves have several players from the championship-winning Spirit squad, Goodman said rising stars such as Maddi Wild, Hannah Rifat and Elise Strachan had worked hard to earn opportunities.
Assistant coach at the Spirit the past two years, Goodman said defence would be a major focus in the Lady Braves game plan.
“There will be some slight changes to positions, but nothing too drastic,” Goodman said of his first season in charge.
He said Knox and Geelong would provide a great challenge in round one.
“Knox has a great group of players, while Geelong is well-coached, has recruited well, and iks likely to be a major challenger this year.
“Geelong may not have its strongest team in this round, but playing there is always a big test.”
Tonight’s clash between Bendigo and Knox tips off at 6pm at Bendigo Stadium.
The Lady Braves and Geelong Supercats do battle from 5.30pm tomorrow at The Arena.