Kesley Griffin enters WNBL season more passionate than ever about Bendigo Spirit

QUEEN OF THE KIDS: Kelsey Griffin among adoring fans at the Bendigo Spirit's school holiday clinic at Bendigo Stadium. Picture: NONI HYETT
QUEEN OF THE KIDS: Kelsey Griffin among adoring fans at the Bendigo Spirit's school holiday clinic at Bendigo Stadium. Picture: NONI HYETT

IT USUALLY requires Kelsey Griffin a roughly 12,000 kilometre trip by plane to be back in Bendigo for the start of the Women's National Basketball League season.

This past off-season she travelled just as many miles - if not more - up and down Victoria's highways spreading the word about the Bendigo Spirit.

From Bendigo to Echuca, Kerang, Romsey, Seymour and Stawell and dozens more places in-between, Griffin embarked on a grueling travel schedule, making good on her goal to establish the Spirit as regional Victoria's club.

With the start of the WNBL season just days away, she's confident that will translate into more memberships and tickets sold and by consequence bigger crowds at Bendigo Stadium.

"It started with an idea I had that I took to the board and the board really got around it," she said.

"We were talking about how we wanted to be regional Victoria's club and how we could go about it.

"It felt like every year we had to jump start the season and all the talk was about netball and footy and (Bendigo) Braves and there was no Spirit conversation happening in the winter.

"I spoke to the board and told them I really don't want to go back and play WNBA, I wanted to see what happens with the Opals, what if I stay on as your ambassador and an employee of the Spirit and do regional development and give back to Bendigo.

"I didn't know what form it was going to take, but it really took off after just a few school clinics for people to hear I was out and about."

What started as a basketball role sprouted quickly into one of the busiest gigs in Bendigo.

Griffin, who became an Australian citizen last season, was appointed ambassador for the Bendigo-based Otis Foundation.

Kelsey Griffin shoots during last year's regular season game against the University of Canberra Capitals. Picture: STEVE BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

Kelsey Griffin shoots during last year's regular season game against the University of Canberra Capitals. Picture: STEVE BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

The self-confessed "science-nerd" has also taken up a similar role with the Discovery Centre.

The two-time WNBL championship player and grand final MVP said it was a joy ensuring the Spirit name was "alive and pumping" during the off-season.

“I really liked going to work every day," she said.

Griffin said her last two weeks had been the busiest yet and with the Spirit about to commence their 2016-17 campaign against Adelaide Lightning this Saturday night, it appeared things were slowly returning to normal.

Kelsey Griffin at the Bendigo Spirit's season launch at Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: STEVE BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

Kelsey Griffin at the Bendigo Spirit's season launch at Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: STEVE BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

"Having this off-season I've gained a whole new respect of what it means to have a team in the WNBL financially and volunteer-resource wise," she said.

"I think that's going to carry on to even more passion on the court which I didn't think I had.

"I feel like I am playing for even a lot more this year - the stakes have just gotten higher now."

That intensity can only spell trouble for Griffin's WNBL opponents.

She is coming off her second straight WNBL All-Star Five selection and led the Spirit last season with 17.86 points per game and 9.96 rebounds.