The Bendigo Spirit will look to secure a badly needed win in the run to finals tomorrow night when they host the University of Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium.
Bendigo endured a horror stretch heading into the Christmas break, dropping consecutive home games against Melbourne and Sydney to drop out of the league’s top four.
The Spirit (9-7) sit fifth with eight games remaining on their schedule and coach Simon Pritchard still fully believes the Spirit will be a big threat come finals time, but need 14 wins to be assured of a finals position.
“We had the whole group at training on Monday and we are doing things a bit differently this week, training Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and having Thursday and Friday off before shoot-around and the game on Saturday,” Pritchard said.
“We went through some stuff about a change in direction for the new year, and how we need to focus a bit more on special situations… It’s safe to say we didn’t handle the last situation in the game against Sydney very well at all.”
Inconsistency has plagued Bendigo throughout the season, both during and between games.
Some losses have been due to a lack of effort, some due to poor defence, and the latest two mostly down to offensive execution that left plenty to be desired.
When at its best, Bendigo is as dangerous as any team in the league and has repeatedly proven that point with two wins against ladder leaders Perth and third-placed Townsville.
For Pritchard, the challenge is getting that kind of performance out of his group more often.
“You probably need 14 wins to get into finals, I think 15 would give you a first or second finish,” he said this week.
“We are still only three losses away from Perth on top. If you keep winning, you can still finish top, and that’s what keeps us going.
“We know we can beat those top teams, we keep stumbling over our own shoelaces. If we can stop doing that we’ll be fine.”
Bendigo’s roster, including injured duo Gabe Richards and Heather Oliver, benefitted from a week off over Christmas to rest up heading into a busy business end of the season.
“We have a couple of injury concerns, Gabe’s achilles and knee aren’t so good and Heather Oliver’s calf still isn’t right,” Pritchard said.
“If we can nurse those girls through, we will be fine. If we can’t, we really don’t have the depth waiting in the wings to replace them.”
Bendigo’s run home starts with the winless Canberra Capitals, who sit bottom of the table with an 0-15 record.
However, the Spirit are fully aware they cannot take the Capitals lightly.
When Canberra visited Bendigo in round three it took a determined second half effort for the Spirit to get over the line by 11 points, and recent performances from Carrie Graf’s side have been encouraging.
“The longer they go, the closer they are to their first win,” Pritchard said.
“While I know what (Graf) does and I know her systems pretty well, last year Canberra was the only side to take the season series over
“These next two games really are must win games for us if we want to be part of the finals. If you want to be a part of it you win these two and see what the results are from there.”
Saturday night’s game at Bendigo Stadium tips off at 7pm.