BACKUP Bendigo Bank Spirit guard Jane Chalmers has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2016-17 WNBL season.
Chalmers underwent surgery over the Christmas break on a thumb tendon injury she had been carrying for the first half of the season.
She was initially expected to be sidelined for four weeks.
But Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said once surgeons had operated they discovered the damage was worse than initially thought.
“She has been amazing for us this year, and for the past decade, and we wish her a speedy recovery," Pritchard said.
Chalmers has played 175 games for the Spirit, the third most in club history.
But she has not played since the team's November 27 win against Adelaide Lightning.
Chalmers misfortune has opened up an opportunity for talented regional basketballer Kara Tessari to join the senior playing roster.
The 17-year-old, who hails from Monegeetta, near Romsey, joins the Spirit after playing point guard for the Bulleen Boomers' Big V team and captaining the Vic Metro under-18 team.
Pritchard said Tessari was a strong replacement for Chalmers, who has featured on the Spirit roster in each of the club's 10 seasons.
“Kara has been with us since the start of the season as a development player and she knows our style of play and our structures well, so she will fit right in,” the second year coach said.
“She is a great young talent and it’s important for the future of the club and the sport in regional Victoria we can create a pathway for girls wanting to play the game at the highest level.”
Tessari, who was recently named in the Vic Metro under-20 team for the Helloworld Under 20 Championships to be played in Bendigo next month, said she was excited to be joining the team.
“I have really enjoyed the time I have had with the team so far, and I have learnt so much,” she said.
“(Coaches) Simon, Dave (Flint) and Andrea (Walsh) have been amazing and the players have been so helpful and are just fantastic.
“Under the circumstances I feel for Jane and I have learnt so much from her this year, but I am thankful for the opportunity that has arisen.”
A recent graduate from Assumption College in Kilmore, Tessari is the seventh player from regional Victoria on the senior Spirit roster.
She joins Kerryn Harrington (Bendigo), Gabe Richards (Seymour), Heather Oliver (Wangaratta), Andrea Wilson (Leongatha), Molly Mathews (Ballarat) and Ebony Rolph (Geelong).