Nadeen Payne drives past Louella Tomlinson. The pair will be teammates for the Spirit this season. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

BENDIGO Stadium’s new showcourt will make its Women’s National Basketball League hosting debut on October 20 as Bendigo Spirit welcomes long-time rivals Dandenong to town.

That was the headline act from the release of the 2018/19 WNBL season fixture this week, which starts a week later but runs almost a month longer than last season.

The season begins on Friday, October 12, with Sydney Uni hosting Canberra and former Bendigo duo Kelsey Griffin and Kelly Wilson.

The new-look Spirit travels to the State Basketball Centre to tackle Melbourne in their opening game on October 13 before hosting Dandenong a week later.

“The team can’t wait to get out there and show Bendigo what they can do,” head coach Simon Pritchard said.

The new Bendigo Stadium showcourt will host just one game in the opening three weeks of the season. Bendigo is the only club not to have at least two home games in the first three weeks.

Unlike last year, however, the Spirit has a home game every week from round 11 to season’s end at round 15.

Five-time Spirit MVP Griffin will not return to Bendigo until the final round of the season as the Spirit host the Capitals on January 19.

As has been the case in previous seasons, Bendigo’s three games against Canberra all come toward the end of the year, with their first meeting in round nine in the nation’s capital.

Each team plays 21 games across the 15-week schedule, with Bendigo playing at home 11 times.

The Spirit faces the doomsday double road trip to Perth and Adelaide just once, but it comes in just the third round of the season.

The Spirit will also host a Thursday night game on January 10 as Adelaide come to Bendigo.

The club also confirmed its development players for the upcoming season this week, in Bendigo Braves championship-winning players Caitlin McLachlan and Bianca Dufelmeier.

Both featured in a recent Spirit training camp alongside recruits Marena Whittle, Louella Tomlinson and Cassidy McLean.

Pritchard said both the 26-year-old Dufelmeier and the 22-year old McLachlan would bring plenty to the group.

– Joel Peterson