WNBL team wrap: Bendigo Spirit

THE WNBL has wrapped up for another year, and there was plenty of excitement across the course of the 2023 season.

It was a different looking landscape as the campaign rolled on, with contenders rising and falling in a tense finish to the home and away fixture. Ultimately, the strongest side in the Townsville Fire claimed the grand prize, but other teams showed plenty of promise and delivered highlights of their own.

As we did with the NBL over the past few weeks, Rookie Me Central will be taking a look at how each side fared in the 2022/23 season, with mixed results across the eight teams.

The Bendigo Spirit could not maintain their blistering form after a red hot start to the season, and ended up missing the postseason thanks to a disappointing finish to the fixture.

The Spirit exploded out of the blocks and emerged as one of the championship contenders, after winning their first seven games and finishing the first block of games as one of two undefeated sides (the other being the Fire).

With the expected favourites still struggling to get their chemistry right, Bendigo looked in prime position, playing an exciting brand of basketball and holding the opposition from getting to a winning score week in week out.

However, the Spirit could not maintain this level of play, and ended up falling back into the pack with the rest of the finals hopefuls. Their strong start did give them a bit of a buffer, but they lost their last six games in a row and ended up imploding when it mattered most.

Bendigo would go on to miss finals by two wins, overtaken by Perth in the final weeks of the fixture and left to look back on an outstanding start to the season.

Bendigo Spirit

2022/23 record – 11 wins, 10 losses

The Spirit looked a strong chance of winning it all after their first seven games, with some excellent recruiting in the off-season and suffocating defence leading the way. However, six consecutive losses spoiled the party, and the defence wavered as the Spirit missed the top four.

MVP – Anneli Maley

While she did not reach the heights of her MVP campaign last season, Maley was still a consistent presence across Bendigo’s 21 games. A powerful force in the frontcourt, she was not a one-woman show as much as last season, and played a crucial role in the team’s hot start. Despite having already won the league’s highest individual honour, Maley continues to show growth as a player and delivered on both ends of the court. She finished the year with numbers of 16.2 points, 11 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in another telling season.

Next season

The Spirit do not have to look back far to find the blueprint of how to play a winning style of basketball, having dominated the start of the fixture. A 7-0 record in their first seven games was the perfect start, but the team looked a different side following that patch.

Over the off-season, coach Kennedy Kereama will be eager to get back to the team’s brilliant defensive ways from the first half of the season, where they held the opposition to just 70 points per game. Maley is under contract for the next couple of seasons, while re-signing Kelsey Griffin and Abigail Wehrung will be a priority for the front office. Having gone without in season 2022/23, the Spirit may add an import over the off-season to give even more support to Maley moving forward.

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