COACH Tracy York is backing the Bendigo Spirit to live up to the obvious big expectations that have followed on from the club's brilliant off-season recruiting campaign
After months back home in Adelaide, the third-year coach is ultra-thrilled to be back in the friendly confines of Bendigo Stadium this week, ahead of next Monday's official start to pre-season.
While it has taken enough planning and scheduling to test even the most seasoned of travel agents and some imminent easing of restrictions on the COVID front, York will have the bulk of her vastly new-look squad in Bendigo in time for the tip-off to training.
The obvious exception will be star new recruit Leilani Mitchell, who has only recently wound up her WNBA commitments and will be subject to a quarantine period.
"We will have a couple due to border restrictions, who will come in a bit later," York said.
"In terms of the recruiting, that was all good - we did that months ago. But getting them in and working out when were going to start (training) and when the season was going to start, they were moving parts.
"It's great to be able to have a firm date and be able to start Monday."
Arguably no WNBL club has bolstered its playing list more impressively than the Spirit.
For a team looking to claw their way back from the bottom of the league ladder, the gains have been both imposing and bountiful, led by a genuine superstar in Opals point guard Mitchell.
Further reinforcements have arrived in the form of the league's leading rebounder last season Anneli Maley, Maddie Garrick, a two-time championship player with the Spirit who has returned after six seasons with the Melbourne Boomers, star young forward Megan McKay and Sydney Uni Flames championship forward Carly Boag.
York said it was an exciting haul to add to the likes of returning international representatives Tessa Lavey (Opals) and Mary Goulding (New Zealand Tall Ferns).
"It will be exciting to see how they gel together," she said.
"Definitely the COVID year and with the WNBL not allowing imports last year, it certainly hurt our group, but having said they we've put together a very good Australian contingent.
"And with Carly Boag coming in to replace our import (Katherine Plouffe), it's going to be a very strong and experienced group.
"She's almost a like for like, which is quite hard to manage at this point of the pre-season.
The Spirit will be aiming to return to the WNBL finals for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
York is signed to the Spirit for the next two seasons having negotiated a new contract in February this year.
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