STAR centre Gabe Richards has rejoined Bendigo Lady Braves, eight seasons after last playing for the SEABL club.
The two-time WNBL All Star’s return was announced on Tuesday morning at Bendigo Stadium.
Richards last played for the Lady Braves in 2010 under former coach Lukas Carey.
It will be the 33-year-old’s first season in the SEABL since a successful two-year stint with Knox Raiders in 2012-13.
Richards is one of two new major signings for the Lady Braves, who finished 2017 as conference champions and national runner-up.
She is joined by close friend and three-time WNBL championship player Kelly Wilson, who has played the past three seasons with the Lady Braves following a three-year stint with Knox.
Wilson and Richards were teammates in back-to-back WNBL championships for Bendigo Spirit in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and also in Knox’s 2014 SEABL championship.
Richards believed the timing was right for her to return to the Lady Braves.
“I obviously can’t play basketball forever, but while I can I think it’s important that I do, but it took a fair bit of convincing to get me back,” she said.
“I think having (coach Megan Moody) on-board and seeing the team she has been able to put together is really exciting.
“It’s a great mix of older players with experience and some great, fresh new talent coming through.”
Richards is the sixth member of Bendigo Spirit’s 2017-18 roster to sign with the Lady Braves.
She joins reigning MVP Nadeen Payne, Ash Karaitiana, Kara Tessari, Maddi Wild and Jess Rennie.
It’s a core group which Richards feels is capable of being a championship contender.
“We didn’t have the success that we would have liked with the Spirit last season, but being able to keep such a core group of girls together, and some who have played with each other a long time, will really translate into some SEABL success,” she said.
Seeing the team coach Megan Moody has been able to put together is really exciting.Gabe Richards
The opportunity to again play alongside Wilson, who is fresh from her first WNBL championship with Townsville Fire and third overall, was an obvious drawcard for the former Opal.
Her signing means defenders across the BFNL netball competition can breathe a sigh of relief, with the star goal shooter not lining up for Golden Square this season.
Richards finished third in the 2017 league best and fairest count behind Spirit teammate and Sandhurst star Heather Oliver and was runner-up in her club’s best and fairest.
“I can play netball for a long time when I am retired from basketball,” she said.
“I really enjoy netball and I have had some great years at Golden Square, so hopefully I can return to netball in the coming years.”
Richards has emerged from a condensed WNBL season with a clean bill of health and was looking forward to hitting the court when pre-season gets underway.