IF recent form is any indication tonight’s matchup between the Bendigo Braves and Sandringham Sabres women’s teams could be every bit as exciting as the $23.65 million court on which it will be played.
The undefeated Braves women headline the opening night bill at the sparkling new Bendigo Stadium as they aim for a ninth win of the SEABL season.
Rocketing out to an 8-0 start the Braves have played a standard of basketball truly befitting of the state-of-the-art stadium they’ll now call home.
Two of their eight wins have come by single-digit margins, with the other six triumphs coming by an average of 27 points.
Tonight they face a Sandringham side coached by former Braves coach Jonathan Goodman, which has a 6-4 record to start the season.
Bendigo crushed the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence last Friday before playing their best game yet to thrash a powerful Dandenong outfit 100-76.
Both of those wins came without the services of Gabe Richards, making them all the more impressive.
“I think Sunday against Dandenong was certainly our best team performance so far,” coach Megan Moody said.
“The most pleasing thing is the way everyone is stepping in and doing what’s asked of them.
“Everyone has bought in and really embraced what we’re about and the style we want to play.”
Round seven player of the week Kelly Wilson and Nadeen Payne continue to be the dominant forces for the Braves, Wilson recording double-doubles in the weekend’s wins while Payne is yet to score less than 15 points in a match.
But coach Megan Moody is just as happy about the contributions from the likes of Maddie Wild, Kara Tessari and other young guns stepping in off the bench.
“You look at Maddie Wild who has done so many good things while we’ve been without Gabe, sometimes you watch her and think ‘oh yep, Gabe taught her that’,” she said.
“Everyone has contributed nearly every time we have been out there and because of that they’ve been rewarded with court time in a lot of those games.”
With the new stadium and the undefeated record being major talking points, Moody admits her greatest challenge this week may be deafening the noise from the outside.
“I think it’s just about that focus on the fact that this is just one game, it sounds boring but that’s the way you have to approach it,” she said.
“If you start thinking about your record and who you have down the track and where you might be that’s when you get tripped up.
“It’s great to be in the new stadium, it’s an amazing privilege to be out there, but we’re both there for the first time and for us it has to be just another court and just another game.”
She said that the matchup with former coach Goodman would have no bearing on the team.
Goodman coached the side for five seasons before taking the head role at Sandringham following last season’s runners-up finish. Sandringham has Australian Opal Rachel Jarry, Jasmine Simmons and Kiwi Jess Bygate leading a talented squad.
“They’re a very strong side and the league is so even this season, but I think if we come out and stick to the way we played on Sunday that we’ll be able to start in the new stadium with a win,” Moody said.
The Braves women hit the court at 6pm for the first official match in the new Bendigo Stadium. Entry is $5.
– Joel Peterson