Nadeen Payne returns for 2019

BENDIGO Braves’ women’s title defence is off to a solid start, with the re-signing of 2018 championship winner and Bendigo Spirit star Nadeen Payne for the upcoming Elite League season.

The newly established Elite League replaces the now disbanded SEABL.

Coming off the back of a successful WNBL season averaging 14 points per game, and a SEABL year which saw her named in the league’s all-star five, Payne said she looked forward to again being part of the squad, which last month also signed Opals star Tessa Lavey.

“I’m really excited, I really like Megan (Moody) as a coach and I really like what Bendigo Stadium are doing as a whole. I really wanted to come back on board,” she said.

“It was a no-brainer for me.”

With guard Ashleigh Karaitiana not returning, this season will see Payne take up a new role, sliding into the three position, which she believed would be positive for her own game.

“It’s a lot more challenging than I think, but being able to handle the ball a little bit better and guarding players that are a lot smaller than me I think will be the main goal for me this year, and be consistent with that,” she said.

“I think my shooting is fine for that role, but it’s more taking people off the dribble and guarding perimeter players.

“I don’t think Megan would put me there either if she didn’t believe in me. It will be a nice challenge, and it can only improve my game.”

Going back-to-back for final-flag glory is a focus for Payne, who said it was important for the team not to be drawn into outside hype regarding their performance, as she believed happened in 2018, and instead just focus on their own on-
court play.

“Like any season, we’ll go in with that hard-working mentality, and not worry about the pressure from the outside,” she said.

“Last year they tried to make it a big deal, we were undefeated,  (so) just focusing on us and playing the style of game we want to play will be really important.

“ Everyone wanted to hype it up, (and) we were just like ‘it’s alright, we’re okay.”

She said key to last season’s success was the culture and enjoyment between the team themselves – which she believed could be replicated.

“That group really clicked well, and with the additions that Megan has this year, I have no doubt that it will be the same, or very similar, with the connection that we have.”

On staying in Bendigo, Payne said being part of Bendigo Stadium and Bendigo basketball’s development was a key factor.

“Moving forward and upwards is always great, and why would  I not want to be here for that growth?”

She also flagged a soon to be announced new head coach for Bendigo Spirit as a key part of that growth.

“That will be interesting to see what direction they (Bendigo Spirit) go in as well.”

For the Braves men, the David Hogan coached side last night announced the signing of local young-gun Jake Lloyd, who’s about to finish his second development season with the Illawarra Hawks NBL team.

Lloyd adds to the already re-committed Ray Turner, currently  with the Sydney Kings, and comes ahead of further signing announcements for both the men’s and women’s teams before the expected season tip off in April.

Sam Kane