Symes Motors Bendigo Braves coach Ben Harvey is the first to admit it’s been a tough season, but he says all will be forgotten in tonight’s SEABL elimination final against Frankston.
“It’s all what happens here now,” Harvey said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride this year, but the bottom line is we’ve got here and we’re really excited that we’ve got the opportunity to play at home.”
The Braves were riding the crest of seven wins in a row mid-season, before it all came crashing down because of internal issues with import Daniel Horton.
Bendigo only won three of its next eight games before Horton was sacked, which raised many questions about how the Braves could recover. But the crisis has brought the team closer together.
Winning six of its past seven matches, including confidence-boosting victories against east conference top teams Dandenong and Geelong last weekend, has kept the Braves’ title hopes alive.
“It’s definitely the most challenging year I’ve had as a coach, but to play our best basketball right now, that’s what you get ready for,” Harvey said.
“How you get there…it’s always nice to have a smooth transition, but in sport there’s always a lot of highs and lows.”
After winning two conference titles in a row, Bendigo’s coaching staff and players made no secret of their ambition to win the national championship in 2012.
That dream never seemed closer than it does now during a season which almost turned into a nightmare.
“To come third…a lot of people didn’t think we could. This is the minimum we wanted to do,” Harvey said.
“We’ve got to look to the leaders – Tommy Garlepp, Adam Tanner, Kevin Probert and Warren Randall – I’m looking at them, this is the time now, this is what you play for and you’ve got to play your best now and they know that.
“If we just play with confidence and flair we should win, we just can’t doubt each other at any time. We just deserve to make sure this is a big year and it’s in our hands to do that.”
Harvey called on Braves supporters to turn out in force at Bendigo Stadium tonight for the team’s final home game of the season.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when you start to get on a roll and then the crowd gets behind you, that’s like having a sixth guy on the court. We need to get them involved early,” Harvey said.
“We want to win this game really bad for our fans and to prove to people in the league we are team that can go all the way.”