Presented with the chance to make club history, coach Megan Moody hopes her Bendigo Braves team embraces the rare opportunity to go through a regular season undefeated.
The Braves women head into the final weekend of their home and away campaign with an 18-0 record, and can become just the second team in SEABL history to head into the postseason unbeaten.
But they won’t be sacrificing anything in their championship quest to get there.
To reach 20-0 they will have to defeat last-placed Frankston tonight and third-placed Nunawading tomorrow night, two sides they are yet to face this year.
“We haven’t hyped it up at all, but on Tuesday night we sat back and reflected on what an opportunity we have right now and said let’s not let the hard work we’ve put in, not go to waste, but how nice would it be to finish a season to go through a season undefeated,” Moody, the team’s first-year coach, said.
“I think there’s only been one other team that’s done that, so it’s a very rare thing. It’s a credit to the whole group, not just one or two players, that we’re in this position.
“We want to acknowledge that yes, this is something special, but it’s not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is that championship game and making sure we put ourselves in the best position possible to get to that last game of the season.”
Tonight’s match against Frankston is a big occasion for the entire club, with the men’s side clinging to a playoff spot in seventh following a pair of losses lastweekend.
The club celebrates the 30th anniversary of the 1988 men’s championship side tonight, giving no shortage of impetus for a strong performance.
The Braves men can still finish as low as eighth based on tiebreakers, but a two wins could see them as high as sixth.
The SEABL’s new final eight system has likely helped the Braves, who may have found themselves out of the mix under the conference system.
The Braves women will be without Ash Karaitiana, who is in Japan with the New Zealand national team, but will otherwise be at full strength heading into the weekend.
The anomaly of the SEABL draw has thrown up a curveball in that the Braves play Nunawading for the first time in the last match of the season tomorrow night. The Spectres could still finish second on the table heading into the playoffs.
“I think being the end of the regular season both teams will just be wanting to get through without any major injuries because both will be playing the next week,” Moody said.
“It’s a tough one though because you’re going into the unknown. On the one hand you’re thinking ‘well it’d be nice to get that bit of a confidence boost’ but also it comes back to that mentality we’ve had all year in that any team is beatable.”
The Braves host their final regular season home game tonight against Frankston from 6pm at Bendigo Stadium before facing Nunawading tomorrow night. The weekend could get even bigger for the Braves, with the league’s awards ceremony to be held on Sunday.
Braves guard Kelly Wilson is a frontrunner for the MVP award, while Moody is a red-hot coach of the year favourite, whether or not the team finishes 20-0.
– Joel Peterson
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Braves men’s side could miss the playoffs.