Spirit confident they can ‘rise up’ in 2018-19

Nadeen Payne is in the midst of a dominant SEABL season with Bendigo Braves. Picture: DARREN HOWE
Nadeen Payne is in the midst of a dominant SEABL season with Bendigo Braves. Picture: DARREN HOWE


THE start of the Women’s National Basketball League might still be three  months’ away, but returning coach Simon Pritchard is excited with the direction of his playing roster.

When the season tips-off in early October, the Spirit will be barely recognisable from the team, which finished last season 4-17 and in last position.

Among nine confirmed signings are just two players from the 2017-18 line-up. They are last season’s MVP Nadeen Payne and  promising young guard Kara Tessari, who have remained as team-mates  during the current SEABL season with the undefeated Bendigo Braves women.

The newcomers include seven-time WNBL championship veteran Natalie Hurst, import centre Becca Tobin, former Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx centre Louella Tomlinson,  SEABL star Marena Whittle, and emerging youngsters Abbey Wehrung and Cassidy McLean.

Louella Tomlinson

Louella Tomlinson

The Spirit added a second import – Canadian point guard Jamie Scott – last week and will round out their announcements soon with another home-grown signing.

With the bulk of signings done and dusted, Pritchard was positive things were on the up.

“Our slogan this season is to ‘rise up’ and part of that is about rising up the ladder … and lifting the standard of professionalism in all that we are doing,” he said.

“(Bendigo Stadium Limited) did a major review at the end of last season and I will go as far as to say there will be 20-plus changes to how we’ll go about things this year, from medical, to physio, to training times, coaching staff and players  and anything else that will get us to our goal of playing finals.

“I think a lot of what was in the review we already knew and a lot of it came down to resources.

“The BSL are putting a lot more resources in and that’s the key. In a national competition, we’ll never match the budget of big city teams, but we’ve got to be much closer.”

Pritchard said he continued to be impressed by the performances at SEABL level by Payne and Tessari, in helping the Braves to a stellar 16-0 season so far.

“Nadeen has been great and Kara has been fantastic, albeit inconsistently,” said Pritchard, who is into his fourth-year as coach.

“She has had some great games and some what you would call ‘normal’ games. We want to bridge the gap between her best and worst.

Kara Tessari. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Kara Tessari. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

“But she has fitted in nicely to that group and is always learning.”

A league MVP-calibre season for Payne has been underpinned by averages of 24.1 ppg (second in the league) and 9.4 rebounds (eighth in the league).