As far as debuts goes, Nadeen Payne’s first WNBL game for Bendigo Bank Spirit was a memorable one, albeit some of it for the wrong reasons.
The Spirit newcomer was no sure thing to make her debut in after spending the days leading in to the team’s season opener against Adelaide Lightning house-ridden with a nasty virus.
But make it she did in time to be part of a nail-biting 77-63 overtime win.
The former South East Queensland Star forward’s contribution was limited to 22 minutes, four rebounds and one assist.
It’s not the introduction to the Spirit Payne had planned, but she knows there will be other days. And importantly the Spirit came away with a character-strengthening win.
“I was all over the shop, but I’m so glad we won in overtime,” Payne said.
“We pushed the boundaries a little but hopefully next week we can be that bit better.”
It’s safe to say Payne, who was born and bred in Townsville, will welcome an end to Bendigo’s big wet and cooler spring temperatures.
She was still suffering the last, but fading signs of her illness on Tuesday, but that did not prevent her from taking to the Bendigo Stadium court before 7am for a practice session.
While few WNBL followers predicted last week’s opponent to be a force in 2016-17, the Lightning’s effort in sending the game in overtime was no surprise to Payne and her teammates.
“No one in this league is terrible, you always have to be on alert, there’s never an easy game,” she said.
“They startled us a little bit early with their change of defence.
“We weren’t very switched on and weren’t aware when they were changing which put us in a little bit of bother.”
What Adelaide found and what more WNBL clubs will soon discover is that the Spirit run a whole lot deeper than in recent seasons.
Eight players hit the scoresheet, with 33 of the team’s 77 points being contributed from the bench.
Payne said there was a confidence within the playing group that should any player suffer through a quiet night, there would be others to fill the breach.
“Ollie (Heather Oliver) was a great spark off the bench, while Kerryn (Harrington) really pulled through in overtime and saved us,” she said.
“I’m sure Kelsey (Griffin) appreciates the depth and can breathe a sigh of relief as a lot of the pressure has been on her in the past.”
On the mend, Payne is looking forward to hitting the floor on Saturday night against Dandenong Rangers, a team the Spirit faced twice during the pre-season.
“We match up very well guards-wise, it should be a really great game,” she said.
“We’ve challenged them in those two games, but we weren’t showing them everything.”