THE Bendigo Spirit will be without captain Kelsey Griffin next WNBL season as the club’s talismanic leader continues her WNBL career in Canberra.
On Wednesday, Griffin was selected as a member of the 12-player Australian Opals lineup to contest the first basketball event at a Commonwealth Games since 2006.
On Thursday, the Canberra Capitals announced they had poached the Spirit star, who had signed a two-year contract to play for Paul Gorriss’s side.
Griffin’s 2017 season with the Spirit ended early due to surgery on a persistent hip injury, and she was in Canberra this week to rehabilitate the injury.
At age 30 and coming off a serious injury, some clubs would have been hesitant to make a big-money outlay for Griffin.
But her selection in the Commonwealth Games team and the contract she signed with WNBA club Connecticut Sun would suggest the rehab is progressing well.
“I’m feeling really good and hopefully this is the final tune up that I will need before I get back on the court,” she said.
Coach Simon Pritchard said Griffin would be remembered as a legend of the club.
“She has done a lot to develop this club on and off the court, and there is a generation of players coming through who have benefited from her professionalism, leadership and influence,” he said.
At the same time as announcing Griffin’s signing, the Spirit announced Abbey Wehrung had signed with the club for the upcoming season. Wehrung is a Ballarat product who has spent several seasons with Canberra.
Griffin leaves a legacy as the most distinguished player in the Spirit’s history, having led the team to two WNBL titles, winning two finals MVPs, several all-star gongs and a league Defensive Player of the Year award.
She has been the club’s captain for the past three seasons, and employed as an off-court ambassador for the club.
She will head to the Commonwealth Games before joining up with Connecticut for the WNBA training camp in May, and the return to Canberra for the WNBL season in September.
Griffin was selected alongside former Bendigo Spirit teammates Tessa Lavey and Belinda Snell in the Commonwealth Games team. From April 5 the competition will hit north Queensland for preliminary matches and qualifying finals.
The competition then heads to the Gold Coast where the medals will be decided.
The Opals’ campaign begins on Friday, April 6 at Townsville Stadium against Mozambique.
– Joel Peterson