A DOSE OF SPIRIT FEVER

The countdown is on to the WNBL grand final

BENDIGO, get set to be hit with a major dose of Spirit fever this week.

For the second year in a row, our Bendigo Spirit are headed for the WNBL grand final at the Bendigo Stadium next Sunday – a mighty achievement for the club on so many levels.

Bendigo has now earned powerhouse status in the WNBL on the back of last year’s championship and this season’s dominance in which it finished six games clear at the top of the ladder and is now on the verge of back-to-back titles.

The Spirit’s record over the past two seasons now stands at 47 wins from 52 games.

But it’s easy to forget that these past two golden seasons came on the back of the gloomiest period in the club’s history when in December, 2011, the Spirit revealed it was in danger of folding as it fell into financial disarray and was left without a general manager following the departure of Kristi Harrower from her administration role.

To quote then-chairman Jeremy Moule: “Even with the cost reduction of not paying a club administrator, plus other cost reductions we need to look at, it’s going to be very difficult to continue next season”.

It was a grim situation, but when it comes to the Bendigo Spirit, it’s spirit by name and spirit by nature.

The club worked its way through the tough period, sorted itself off the court and the rest is history.

To all of Bendigo, let’s get behind the Spirit this week

When you couple the Spirit’s revival from the brink of almost having the last rites read just two years ago with the fact that most of Bendigo's rivals are capital city-based teams with bigger budgets, it has been a phenomenal achievement from all involved with the club – both on and off the court.

They aren’t unbeatable, but over the past two years, the Spirit have built an aura about them that top sides possess and they grind their opposition with their suffocating defence, which at times resembles death by a thousand cuts.

We saw that in the second semi-final last week when the Dandenong Rangers stuck with the Spirit for the first half, but couldn’t sustain their intensity and were beaten by nine points.

There was an old saying in cricket of the great Australian pace duo Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson that if “Lillee doesn’t get you, Thommo must”.

It’s similar with the Spirit: “If Gabe Richards doesn’t score, Kelsey Griffin will add two more, Kelly Wilson will land a trey, Kristi Harrower will make a play and there’s plenty more who will have a say.”

OK, it may not be as catchy as Lillee and Thommo, but you get the picture – the Spirit roster runs deep and that has been a key to their success, with a wealth of players at coach Bernie Harrower’s disposal capable of stepping up to cover those who may be having an off night.

The even spread of contributors is perfectly summed up by the fact that for all the domination of the Spirit this season, only centre Gabe Richards (pictured) made the WNBL All-Star Five.

To all of Bendigo, let’s get behind the Spirit this week as they chase another WNBL championship.

Good luck girls.

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