It’s time to be Brave

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Sep-2016

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Bendigo's Kevin White and Jeremy Kendle. Photo: Andrew Perryman.
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THE stakes may be higher but the preparation remains exactly the same for the Bendigo Braves ahead of Saturday night’s SEABL east conference final against Nunawading at Bendigo Stadium.

The Braves won the right to host the game with a dominant performance against Brisbane two weeks ago, while the Spectres also had to beat the Spartans last week in Brisbane to force their way through to the decider.

The Braves’ focus and resolve has been steely for the entirety of their 2016 campaign, which has seen them go a league best 22-3 on the back of a dominant defence and a team chemistry that has been lauded by all involved in the team.

“Chemistry and camaraderie in team sports are the things that on the outside looking in some people don’t see it or don’t understand, but I think that it’s those intangibles like trust, believing in your teammates and wanting to fight for them that go a long, long way,” Braves superstar and SEABL MVP favourite Jeremy Kendle told the Weekly.

“Talent can only win you so many games, but the teamwork and togetherness is what really wins championships.

“We have a great group of guys that believe in that and that’s why we’ve had the success that we’ve had, and we hope to have more over the next two weeks.”

The perfect example of that chemistry is Bendigo’s pregame routine. The group gathers in the locker room before every game and shares a prayer, led by Kendle.

Regardless of whether individual players are faith-driven, or would make it a part of their routine before games otherwise, it symbolises the one-in-all-in nature of the group.

While a team with a connection such as Bendigo’s is imposing, scarier still is the prospect that the group as a whole is still improving.

“We’ve continued to improve as the season has gone on, and the coaches an players trust every guy on the team, one through 12,” Kendle’s backcourt running mate and defensive player of the year candidate Kevin White said.

“Damian (Johnson) is in the middle on D, Matt Andronicos is blocking shots and rebounding, and every guy off the bench comes in and makes an impact.”

Nunawading has been a perennial SEABL contender led by Shane McDonald and has made its run by winning two away playoffs from fourth in the east to make the conference final.

Bendigo will need to be switched on from the opening tip to avoid a similar fate to Brisbane, who trailed 30-16 at quarter time of last week’s preliminary final.

“The start of every game is pretty crucial but over 40 minutes we feel like we can do a job whether they jump us or not,” White said.

“We’ve been really good this year at staying level-headed, staying together as a group and I guess that comes back to the team chemistry. We know when push comes to shove this group will get the job done.

”For our group defence is a massive part of our game, we know that when Nunawading put points on the board they are hard to stop.

“A key for us will be getting up the floor, troubling Shane, getting the ball out of his hands and make other people score the ball that don’t usually do that.

“If we can do that and keep them into the 60s or 70s points wise we think we have a really good chance of winning this game.”

Bendigo’s home crowd is another factor working in the club’s favour

“Everyone who is a part of this club, supporters included, should be excited. The grand final is the most important game, but in terms of games we get to host we have worked the entire season for this exact moment and to host this game,” Kendle said.

“This is what you train so hard for, this is what you sacrifice so much for. 

“We just hope the crowd can be as excited as we are and get this place packed and give them a good show.”

Bendigo’s SEABL conference final tips off at 7pm on Saturday night at Bendigo Stadium.

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