GABE Richards says she is confident her decision to take a break from basketball in the WNBL off-season will reap long-term rewards for the Bendigo Bank Spirit. The two-time championship centre spent the winter winning a Bendigo Football Netball League A-grade netball premiership with Golden Square. It meant bypassing the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) season and any other form of competitive basketball for the first time in several years.
Richards showed no signs of rust from her unique and limited preparation in the Spirit’s road-double in Queensland last weekend. The two-time All-Star Five selection averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as the Spirit split their opening weekend series against South East Queensland and Townsville. Richards believed her performance reflected that of the team’s.
“We were all a bit underwhelmed on Friday night (against the Stars) – we missed a lot of shots,” she said. “But against Townsville we just slowed things down and looked at wasn’t working the previous night. “The way we came together on defence and stopped them (Townsville) was very impressive.”
Richards said her decision to play netball had broken the monotony of concentrating 12 months a year on basketball. “It was really nice to step away, do something different and be part of a different environment,” she said. “I really enjoyed the (Golden Square) club – they were really great group of girls – super-competitive. “To get a win at the end of the season was awesome.”
The Spirit continue their season this Sunday at Bendigo Stadium against the Perth Lynx. The Western Australian team, which operates under the same ownership as the NBL’s Perth Wildcats, could not have been more impressive in their season opener in Perth, defeating the Sydney Flames 81-70. Richards said the Spirit would need to replicate the defensive pressure they showed against reigning champions Townsville last week to match one of the league’s tallest teams.
“They have recruited really well and they’re obviously very big,” she said. “We are going to find it difficult this weekend to get shots in the key.” The showdown will be a homecoming for former Spirit guard Tessa Lavey, who is captaining the Lynx. Richards said both parties would be keen to impress.
“We’ll welcome her back to Bendigo, but we certainly won’t hold back when we play Perth,” she said. “It will be a highly competitive match up between her and Kel (Kelly Wilson). “We’re super-stoked – we can’t wait for our first home game of the season.”
Article and Photo: Kieran Iles, Bendigo Advertiser