Richards Raring To Go For The Bendigo Bank Spirit

24

Gabe Richards had little time to dwell on Golden Square’s BFNL A-grade netball loss to Kangaroo Flat.

No sooner had the curtain come down on the Bulldogs’s season, she was back on court at Bendigo Spirit practice.

The two-time championship centre is getting set for her ninth season with the Spirit.

Only bench players Jane Chalmers and Andrea Wilson have been with the club longer.

Richards has adopted a cautious approach to her basketball training after undergoing plantar fascia surgery midway through the netball season.

The injury severely hampered her during the final weeks of the 2015-16 WNBL season and would likely have sidelined her if the Spirit had qualified for the playoffs.

With the addition of four new teammates, including Canadian Olympian Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Richards believed it was exciting times ahead for the Spirit, who are celebrating their 10th year.

“We’ve got so many new faces and just so much young, athletic talent,” she said.

“Our depth this year is incredible. We have so many girls who are athletic, I wouldn’t be surprised if some one dunks it this year.

“We’re really going to be pushing for spots and sharing minutes which is a good thing.”

Richards had arguably one of her best seasons in 2015-16, averaging 15.5 points (10th best in the league) and 9.1 rebounds (fourth best).

There’s plenty of confidence the Spirit can improve on their sixth place finish of last season, when they were still in the hunt for a finals spot in the final week.

But with the usual swag of off-season player movements around the league, Richards felt any number of sides could emerge as contenders to challenge back-to-back champions Townsville.

“A lot of the girls that went to Rio have come back and are playing – on the other hand a lot that were playing last year are playing in Europe,” she said.

“It’s always interesting and you don’t know what the imports from other teams are like until you get to see them.

“But the WNBL is always one of the toughest leagues (in the world) and I have no doubt this year will be the same.”

Richards and fellow frontcourt star Kelsey Griffin will have plenty of support with the arrival of Raincock-Ekunwe and former Australian junior Nadeen Payne.

The long-serving Spirit centre said she was impressed with what she had seen so far from the Canadian and described her as someone with comparative height to herself, but with the athleticism of versatile guard Heather Oliver.

Article and Photo: Bendigo Advertiser

WNBL Corporate Partners