Last chance for Spirit

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 21-Dec-2017

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Maddy Wild is one of Bendigo's players who will benefit from more court time. Photo: Andrew Perryman.
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BENDIGO Spirit coach Simon Pritchard has gone in to bat for his side, saying they haven’t quit on the WNBL season.

But he has taken aim at the new competition structure, saying it does not allow coaches to properly develop players and implement necessary week-to-week changes.

The club has four games left in its 2017/18 campaign, is two games adrift from the nearest side and seemingly nailed to the bottom of the WNBL table.

The Spirit has lost its last four matches by an average of 27 points including a record 44-point loss to Melbourne.

Bendigo was beaten by second bottom side Canberra by 11 points last weekend and thrashed by 33 points on Saturday when up against Sydney.

Pritchard said the club is working to ensure players don’t mentally check out of the season, but that his group needs to show more fight.

“It’s that difference between our best and our worst, we shouldn’t be having the huge swings that we are,” he said.

“We just need to have more fight in those situations.”

Pritchard said the team’s woes have been compounded by three straight Thursday night games and subsequent weekend away meaning the club only trains once per week.

“We have a few injuries with Heather Oliver, Gabe Richards and Jessie Rennie so we don’t have enough players to train,” he said.

“As coaches, we can’t get any development. That’s a question for the WNBL, because as it stands with the schedule the way it is we can’t develop players.

“And you can hardly change things from week to week. We’ll have played nine games in December at the end of the month. It’s madness.”

The club’s final month of double-headers is taking its toll, and the side has trips to Townsville and Adelaide yet to come, this weekend and next respectively.

Pritchard says keeping the group focussed is his main challenge.

“We are doing a lot of work to motivate them and set goals,” he said.

“We need to map out the next four games and see what we can achieve. But we also need to get some court time into Ahlise Hurst and Kara Tessari and Maddy Wild, because there’s nine months until the next lot of WNBL games and for them that time is invaluable.”

Bendigo plays Dandenong tonight at Bendigo Stadium from 7pm, before heading to Townsville on Saturday.

The Spirit then plays Adelaide on December 28 and finishes the season at home against Sydney on New Years Eve.

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