It's been a whirlwind 12 months for Bendigo's own Piper Dunlop.
After making her debut with the Spirit during last year's hub-style competition in Queensland, the 18-year-old Bendigo native is eager for a second season in the WNBL.
Dunlop has just finished Year 12 and her mind is now focused on the 2021/22 season which starts on Saturday against the Southside Flyers.
"Last year was exciting as everything was new and I had no idea what to expect," Dunlop said.
"This year I have more experience and feel a lot more confident and guided by some great experienced role models we have on the team.
"I honestly feel that my development as a player is going to fly this season."
Among the players that have already inspired Dunlop are Leilani Mitchell, Tessa Lavey and Anneli Maley - just to name a few.
In addition to learning from some of the league's best, Dunlop has embraced the strong "team dynamic" during the pre-season.
"I came into the pre-season slightly late as I had to finish exams, but what I noticed upon arriving was the ball was already rolling and the team dynamic was strong," she said.
"Everyone was already right around each other and heading into the match on Saturday there's a really strong team bond."
Dunlop's goal to "learn everything" from her teammates began during the Spirit's two pre-season matches where they endured losses to Southside and the Melbourne Boomers.
"We were playing without our full contingent due to injuries, but it's exciting to go into this weekend with our bigger names ready to play," Dunlop said.
"It's all becoming real so no doubt we will put our heads together this weekend and come away with the win."
Second year Spirit player Mary Goulding shares Dunlop's enthusiasm to get the season underway.
Goulding came to the Spirit in 2020 in what was her debut season within the WNBL.
"Last year I didn't really have anything to compare to and was just thrilled to be playing within the WNBL," Goulding said.
"Now that we're back to a regular season it's great to have more than 12 games and to learn and play with each other for a longer period of time."
During the past 12 months Goulding continued refining her ability - including an international stint with her native New Zealand Tall Ferns at the 2021 FIBA Women's Asia Cup in Jordan.
"Playing internationally gave me a whole new insight into the mental side of the sport as the quality of the players is so high," she said.
"I left it all out there - I was exposed to the best players and was able to put in some strong minutes with the Tall Ferns.
"I came away from the tournament with a really positive mindset which I am confident will translate into the WNBL this season."
Goulding cited her versatility at both ends of the court as her key attribute.
Whether it's defensive plays, rebounding, scoring points or strong offence - she can do it all.
"I am happy to have versatility and be able to hustle wherever needed - I bring a lot of different elements to the team."
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