“It will be a little bit hollow.”
That’s how Bendigo Bank Spirit head coach Simon Pritchard says the feeling will be for the team on Sunday – the day after the current squad’s final match up for the season, and too, his last stepping on Bendigo Stadium’s court at the helm.
With the club sitting at 7-13 and not making the WNBL finals series, Pritchard admitted tomorrow’s clash against first-placed Canberra Capitals is more about the team itself – and finishing with dignity.
“It’s going to be fun, it’s more a celebration for us, we’ve got to the end of the season, and it’s the last time we all get to play together,” he said.
“The good thing is that we’re going to get to play everybody (on court) in that last game, so there’s going to be a sense of us working together, and the collaboration that’s been going on for the last six months.”
The club last week announced Pritchard’s four years as coach would come to end at the conclusion of the current regular season, signalling a hunt for a new head coach to drive the team forward into season 2019/2020.
Pritchard said that tomorrow’s end was part of a basketball journey he’s been on before.
“All teams start this way and end this way, it’s the same every season … it’s not uncommon,” he said.
Looking to tomorrow against Canberra, Pritchard said an injury cloud hindered over the Spirit’s lineup, after star forward Nadeen Payne was rested for most of this week’s training due to a hyperextended knee injury.
The club also announced this week that import Rebecca Tobin departed early, flying home to the United States due to a family emergency.
For Pritchard, it means other members of the roster will be called upon to step up, including centre Maddison Wild who’s returning from a jaw injury.
“Trying to get her through the game and get some impact from her I think is going to be a challenge,” he said.
“But we’re going to need her (Wild), because Becca (Tobin) and possibly Nadeen aren’t playing.
“Louella (Tomlinson) I think will relish her extra court time, so that will be really good for her.
“It’s getting some opportunity for a couple of the younger players – Kara will play more minutes, Cassidy and the like.”
“It’s sad that Becca’s not going to be here, because she’s been so much a part of our group, and I’m sure it’s sad for her that she’s not going to
He said tomorrow was also about survival, having gone down in their last four games – including in overtime last Thursday at home, the team’s third loss of the sort during the current season.
“We’re the walking wounded a little bit at the moment,” Pritchard said.
“But most clubs will be in that situation trying to get through to the end of the season, and trying not to make too much of a struggle.”
Tomorrow’s game will also see legends of the Spirit establishment in Kelsey Griffin and Kelly Wilson return to their former home, both now playing key roles in Canberra’s championship campaign, of which the team is the favourite.
“It’s a celebration for them too, coming back and playing in front of their home towns,” Pritchard said.
“It would be much better if we could put a full team on the floor, but it is what it is.”
Pritchard revealed that since the announcement of the end of his tenure, new opportunities for his own future had opened up.
But first – it’s the game, then the club’s MVP dinner on Sunday.
“We’ll celebrate each other and the enjoyment we’ve had playing together, and then we move on – a lot of the girls go off to other teams,” he said.
“It’s a natural phase in the basketball cycle.”
Tomorrow’s clash against the Capitals tips off at 3pm.
– Sam Kane