Villawood Bendigo Spirit 2021/22 WNBL season preview

During the off-season Villawood Bendigo Spirit were able to strengthen their 2021/22 roster by recruiting four players that were starters for rival WNBL clubs in 2020 – point guard Leilani Mitchell (Southside Flyers), forward Anneli Maley (Sydney Uni Flames), centre Megan McKay (Townsvile Fire) and shooting guard Maddie Garrick who returns to the Bendigo Spirit after six seasons playing for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers including being a Boomers co-captain in 2019/20 and 2020. In the 2020 WNBL season Mitchell led the league for assists, Maley ranked first for rebounds, Garrick ranked in the top 10 for three-pointers made and McKay led the league for field goal accuracy among players that made at least 10 field goals for the season.

Three of the players that ranked in the top four at Bendigo Spirit for scoring in 2020 will suit up for the Spirit again in 2021/22 season, being Tessa Lavey (ranked 1st for scoring in 2020), Mary Goulding (3rd) and Demi Skinner (4th). The exception is Carly Ernst who ranked second in scoring and will miss this season after having a baby boy.  

The Bendigo Spirit’s 2020 season is briefly covered below before the club’s 2021/22 roster and a preview of the upcoming WNBL season is covered in more detail.

Bendigo Spirit coach Tracy York talking to her team during a time-out against the Southside Flyers during a pre-season game at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Villawood Bendigo Spirit 2020 season mini-review

During the 2020 WNBL season Bendigo Spirit were undermanned, only having two players that averaged more than 7.0 points and 22.0 minutes court time per game – Spirit captain Lavey with 15.2 points and 35 minutes per game along with forward/centre Carly Ernst with 14.8 points and 30 minutes per game. This lack of depth made it difficult for the Spirit to match it with their opponents for entire games, with five minute or quarter lapses proving costly and Bendigo were unable to record a win during the 13 game regular season.

After Lavey and Ernst the load was spread evenly between eight Villawood Properties Bendigo Spirit players who each played at least 12 of the 13 games and averaged between 9.5 and 22.0 minutes per game, with players in this category being Mary Goulding, Demi Skinner, Amelia Todhunter, Jennie Rintala, Paige Price, Chevannah Paalvaast, Cassidy McLean and Alicia Froling. Lavey and Ernst were joint winners of the Bendigo Spirit’s 2020 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.

Villawood Bendigo Spirit 2021/22 roster

Returning:           Tessa Lavey, Mary Goulding, Demi Skinner, Cassidy McLean, Piper Dunlop

Arrivals:               Leilani Mitchell (Southside Flyers), Anneli Maley (Sydney Uni Flames) Maddie Garrick (Bendigo Spirit), Megan McKay (Townsville Fire), Carly Boag (Sydney Uni Flames) Bella Stratford, Alana Goodchild

Departures:        Carley Ernst (had a baby boy), Alicia Froling (University of Canberra Capitals), Amelia Todhunter, Jennie Rintala, Paige Price, Chevannah Paalvast, Shelby Britten

Player                                           Position                      Date of birth                   

Predicted Starters

Leilani Mitchell                            Guard                          15/06/1985                            

Tessa Lavey                                   Guard                          29/03/1993

Maddie Garrick                             Guard                          01/04/1992

Anneli Maley                                 Forward                       01/09/1998

Megan McKay                               Centre                         08/01/1997

Bench

Cassidy McLean                            Guard                          09/06/1999

Mary Goulding                              Guard/Forward           24/08/1996

Carly Boag                                     Forward                       09/04/1991

Piper Dunlop                                 Forward                       26/03/2003    

Demi Skinner                                 Forward/Centre          09/04/1997

Development Players

Bella Stratford                              Guard                          26/09/2001

Alana Goodchild                          Forward                       26/08/2003

Head Coach:       Tracy York is Bendigo Spirit’s head coach for the third consecutive season, having previously been the head coach of the Adelaide Lightning for the 2015/16 season. York also has experience as an assistant coach of the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL and as a Women’s head coach for under-age teams at state level for South Australia and national level for Australia. As well as coaching Bendigo’s five returning players last season – Lavey, Goulding, Skinner, McLean and Dunlop, York has coached other players on Bendigo’s 2021/22 roster previously. York coached Mitchell at Adelaide Lightning in 2015/16 and at under-age level for Australian teams has coached Alana Goodchild as well as Piper Dunlop in the Australian under 17 team.

Tracy York talking to her Bendigo Spirit players at a time-out in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Preview of Villawood Bendigo Spirit’s 2021/22 season

Five of Bendigo Spirit’s players from the 2020 roster have returned to the club for the 2021/22 season with Lavey, Goulding and Skinner being joined in this category by Cassidy McLean and 18 year-old forward Piper Dunlop.

The Villawood Properties Bendigo Spirit completed their 10-player main roster on 18 October by signing experienced power forward Carly Boag. Bendigo’s five off-season recruits – Mitchell, Garrick, Maley, McKay and Boag all played in the 2020 WNBL hub season. Maley and Boag were teammates at the Sydney Uni Flames in 2020 and the front-court duo have been WNBL teammates of Mitchell’s previously. Lavey and Garrick were teammates at the Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14 and 2014/15 with the duo playing roles off the bench.

Bendigo Spirit team huddle at the end of a time-out in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Six players on Bendigo’s 2020 roster aren’t playing for the club in 2021 – Carley Ernst, Alicia Froling  Amelia Todhunter, Jennie Rintala, Paige Price, Chevannah Paalvast, Shelby Britten. In both of her seasons with Bendigo forward Carly Ernst led the club in rebounding, blocked shots and three pointers made and ranked second in scoring. Ernst will miss the 2021/22 season after having her first child, a son Kylan in September.

Carly Ernst shooting a jump shot playing for Bendigo Spirit against Melbourne Boomers on 19 October 2019 at the State Basketball Centre

Playing 15 minutes per game off the bench in 2020 Alicia Froling ranked equal fifth at Bendigo for rebounds and second for blocked shots. Froling has joined the University of Canberra Capitals. In 2020 guard Todhunter ranked fourth at Bendigo for minutes played and fifth in scoring. 

The likely starting line-up for the Bendigo Spirit in 2021/22 is Mitchell, Lavey, Garrick, Maley and McKay, resulting in four of the starters having been recruited in the off-season with Lavey the lone exception. The five players that complete Bendigo’s main roster in 2021 – Goulding, Skinner, Dunlop, McLean and Boag all played NBL1 basketball during 2021 and all of these players except Boag played for the Spirit in the 2020 WNBL season. Whilst the Bendigo Spirit will have a vastly different starting line-up in 2021/22, several of the players have been teammates previously and the Bendigo main 10-player roster all played in the WNBL in 2020, giving them greater familiarity with the league, the seven rival WNBL clubs all have at least one player on their main roster making their WNBL debut in 2021/22.

A trio of Bendigo Spirit guards – Lavey, Mitchell and Garrick have each played over 150 WNBL games and have vast experience representing Australia. Mitchell and Lavey have both been regulars in the Australian Opals team since 2014 with Lavey representing the Opals at all four major championships from 2014 onwards whilst Mitchell has played for Australia at three of these major championships – the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games as well as the 2014 World Cup but missed the 2018 World Cup due to a lower limb injury. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Mitchell led the Opals with 5.5 assists per game and ranked fourth for scoring with 9.3 points per game. Garrick has been a fixture in Australia’s 3×3 team since 2018 and was a member of the Australian team that won a gold medal at the 2019 Asian Cup and finished fourth at the 2019 World Cup.   

On 29 April 2021 Bendigo Spirit announced that point guard Leilani Mitchell had signed with the club for the 2021/22 season and Bendigo head coach Tracy York told WNBL Media “ We are extremely happy to sign a player like Leilani. She brings a wealth of experience from the WNBA, the WNBL and the Opals. Leilani is one of the best point guards in the country with her playing ability and natural leadership on and off the floor. Having coached Lei a few years ago in the WNBL I am very excited to be able to coach her again.”1 When York was Mitchell’s head coach at Adelaide Lightning in 2015/16 Michell averaged a WNBL career-high 17.4 points per game and was the Lightning’s co-captain. Mitchell’s partner Mikaela Dombkins is an Assistant Coach of the Bendigo Spirit in 2020/21. Dombkins played over 150 WNBL game including the 2015/16 season at Adelaide where she was a teammate of Mitchell’s and coached by York.

Leilani Mitchell dribbling the ball whilst playing for Adelaide Lightning against the Melbourne Boomers and defended by Maddie Garrick at the State Basketball Centre on 13 February 2016

Mitchell made her WNBA debut in 2008 and over 13 seasons has amassed 398 regular season games including 199 starts. Mitchell ranks in the WNBA’s top 25 on several All-Time lists including most three-pointers made, total career assists and three-point accuracy. Mitchell is very effective as the ball handler in the pick and roll, particularly in on-ball screens.

Leilani Mitchell in action playing for the Southside Flyers against the University of Canberra Capitals in Game 1 of the 2019/20 Grand Final at Dandenong Stadium on 1 March 2020

The point guard position is going to be a major strength in 2021/22 for the Spirit with Lavey and Mitchell being two of the three players that averaged more than 5.0 assists per game during the 2020 WNBL season. Mitchell led the league in 2020 with 6.8 assists per game and Lavey ranked third with 5.9 assists per game. Mitchell’s career average of 5.6 assists per game throughout her 166 WNBL game career is an All-Time WNBL record among players that have played at least 50 games. In each of Mitchell’s seven WNBL seasons she has averaged more than 5.0 assists per game and has led the league in this category three times including the 2020 season with the Jayco Southside Flyers. In Southside’s 2020 WNBL Grand Final victory against Townsville Mitchel displayed excellent composure, decision making and leadership to score 31 points, made nine of 13 field goal attempts, took four rebounds and made a team-high five assists to win the Rachel Sporn Medal as Grand Final MVP for the second time in her career – having previously won the award with the Sydney Uni Flames in 2016/17.

Leilani Mitchell in possession of the ball playing for the Sydney Uni Flames against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 February 2017

In 2009/10 Tessa Lavey made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and spent four seasons in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) comprised of three seasons with the AIS and one season with the Canberra Capitals. In Lavey’s first two seasons at the Bendigo Spirit she played off the bench and was able to learn from one of Australia’s greatest ever point guards in Kristi Harrower as well as Kelly Wilson. Bendigo defeated Townsville to win the 2013/14 WNBL Championship, however the roles were reversed the following year with Townsville defeating Bendigo in the 2014/15 WNBL Grand Final.

Lavey left Bendigo for greater playing opportunities with Perth Lynx, being their starting point guard and ranking in the WNBL’s top 10 for assists per game in 2015/16. Lavey was the Perth Lynx captain for her two seasons with the club in in 2015/16 and 2016/17 before spending two seasons with the Jayco Rangers.  

Tessa Lavey in possession of the ball playing for Perth Lynx against Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on 5 March 2017

The Bendigo Spirit announced in April 2019 that Lavey had signed with the club for the 2019/20 WNBL season. Bendigo Spirit head coach Tracy York was glowing of her praise for Lavey, telling WNBL Media “Tessa is the type of person you want to be a part of any organisation you’re affiliated with. She is a role model for our youth, an extension of the coach on the floor, as well as the first player to be picking her teammates up. Lavey is an incredible recruitment for the Bendigo Spirit.”2

Tessa Lavey playing for Bendigo Spirit against the Melbourne Boomers and defended by Maddie Garrick at the State Basketball Centre on 19 October 2019

Lavey was co-captain of the Bendigo Spirit along with Kelly Wilson in 2019/20 and was the club’s sole captain in 2020. During 2020 Lavey averaged 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game for the Bendigo Spirit to achieve career highs in all three categories and led the WNBL for minutes played with 35.0 per game and rank 10th for scoring.

Tessa Lavey in possession of the ball playing for Bendigo Spirit against Southside Flyers and being defended by Leilani Mitchell at Dandenong Stadium on 3 November 2019

On being a teammate of Mitchell’s in the WNBL for the upcoming 2021/22 season Lavey told wnbl.basketball in the Fast Break video series “I can’t wait to play with Lei, Lei’s someone I thought I’d never actually get to play with because we are very similar positions but Tracy (York) has done a great job and I’m really pumped to be playing with Lei and we can sort of roll 1 and 2 position and play with each other, play off each other. Yeah, it’s really exciting, we have got a young group here, everyone is learning quickly.” Whilst Mitchell and Lavey are both used to being the primary ball-handler on their WNBL teams they have each had experience sharing point guard duties previously – both with WNBL games record-holder Kelly Wilson who returns to the league with the University of Canberra Capitals. Mitchell played alongside Wilson and Maddison Rocci at the UC Capitals in 2018/19 whilst Lavey shared point guard duties with Wilson and Shyla Heal at Bendigo in 2019/20.  

In a video WNBL Fast Break Series: Tessa Lavey published on wnbl.basketball Lavey told WNBL Media about combining WNBL and AFLW with the two seasons to overlap this summer, sayingLife is looking very busy. I train a lot, I eat a lot and I sleep a lot and repeat that every week. I travel a bit from Bendigo to Melbourne as well obviously to fit those things in. The WNBL’s been supportive, Bendigo’s been really supportive of it and so have Richmond. It’s really nice to have that support, I’m ready to go, can’t wait for WNBL to come around and for that ball to get thrown up, game on, can’t wait.” Later in the video Lavey told WNBL Media “I’m really looking forward to the challenge (of playing both sports) and the non-stop lifestyle, you know I am lucky, I am really fortunate to be in this situation so I want to make the most of it, that’s for sure.”

Tessa Lavey about to kick the ball for Richmond against North Melbourne at Punt Road Oval on 5 March 2021

At 29 years of age shooting guard Maddie Garrick returns to the Bendigo Spirit, having played 79 games for the club previously comprised of three games in her debut 2009/10 season and 76 games in three seasons from 2012/13 to 2014/15 which included playing in Bendigo’s 2012/13 and 2013/14 Championships.

Maddie Garrick (number 9) lining up with Bendigo Spirit teammates before the 2012/13 WNBL Grand Final at Bendigo Stadium on 10 March 2013

From 2015/16 to 2019/20 Garrick made at least 40 three-pointers in all five seasons for the Melbourne Boomers. During the 2019/20 WNBL season Garrick made 52 three-pointers to rank third in the league behind Kia Nurse and current Bendigo Spirit teammate Leilani Mitchell and also ranked third for total steals. A dozen players made more than 20 three-pointers during the 2020 WNBL season including a trio that will be playing for the Spirit in 2021/22 Mitchell (26 three-pointers made during the 2020 regular season), Garrick (23) and Lavey (21).

Maddie Garrick playing for Melbourne Boomers against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 28 November 2018

Garrick grew up in Country Victoria in Shepparton, was part of Bendigo Spirit’s most successful era and has grown as a player and a leader during her six seasons with the Melbourne Boomers from 2015/16 to 2020. After signing with the Villawood Properties for the 2021/22 season Garrick told WNBL Media in April “I believe we will be strong competitors to get back to playing finals. I’m really looking forward to new opportunities with Bendigo and playing with the squad that is being put together, which will be an exciting team to watch this season. This change has come at a perfect time for me to take on a new challenge and continue to expand my game and impact on and off the court.”3

Maddie Garrick about to shoot a three-pointer playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Articles have been published on Milestones and Misses during the past two years comprehensively covering the careers of Lavey, Mitchell and Garrick, links to these articles are below:

During the 2020 WNBL season Bendigo Spirit were the only club that didn’t have multiple players average more than 5.0 rebounds per game and with the only player in this category, Carly Ernst (7.5 rebounds per game) missing the 2021 season recruiting an exceptional rebounder was high on Bendigo’s off-season wish-list. Bendigo Spirit were able to recruit the WNBL’s most dominant rebounder, forward Anneli Maley on a two year deal for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons. York told WNBL Media in early May “We are extremely excited to sign Anneli to a two-year deal. She is a relentless rebounder and fearless competitor, and we think she fits well with the team we are building and want to put on the floor.”4

Anneli Maley playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Anneli is from a basketball family, her dad Paul Maley played 270 NBL games from 1990 to 2001, was part of North Melbourne’s 1994 Championship winning team and during his first two NBL seasons in 1990 and 1991 averaged a double-double for the entire season. After his playing career ended Paul has held several sports related roles and has worked at Basketball Australia from April 2015, he has had the role of Executive General Manager, Basketball since March 2019.

At under-age level Anneli represented Australia at several tournaments including Under 17 and Under 19 World Championships. Entering the 2020 WNBL season Maley had only 37 games WNBL experience including 25 games for the Southside Flyers off the bench in 2019/20, averaging 2.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.0 minutes per game.

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Anneli Maley playing for Southside Flyers against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019

During the 2020 hub season Maley flourished in a starting role with the Sydney Uni Flames to average 7.9 points, a league-leading 12.1 rebounds per game and 29.6 minutes court-time per game whilst also impressing with her defense. At 185 centimetres tall Maley is consistently battling for rebounds against bigger bodies, however with the ability to read the flight of the ball superbly, together with great body positioning and timing resulted in Maley averaging 8.4 defensive rebounds and 3.7 offensive rebounds per game in 2020 to lead the WNBL in both categories. Highlighting how dominant Maley’s rebounding was her 12.1 rebounds per game during the 2020 regular season was 31.5% more than the second ranked player in the league – Melbourne Boomers forward/centre Cayla George with 9.2 rebounds per game. During the 2020 WNBL regular season Maley ranked in the league’s top 10 for free throws made with 30 and ranked equal second at Sydney for steals per game.  

Anneli Maley shooting a free throw playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Most players find it more difficult to take 10 rebounds in a game than to score 10 points in a game, however for Maley scoring is the more difficult part of the equation. On 4 May 2021 Maley commented to Bendigo Advertiser “The next step for me is being more of a threat offensively. In the NBL1 I’m able to put my offensive game in play, and I think I’m capable of doing that at the next level, but the key for me is doing it more consistently. Putting more scoreboard pressure on the opposition and being confident to take shots is what I’m working on. It would be cool to be known as not just a rebounder. I want to be an offensive threat as well.”5 During the 2021 NBL1 South season Maley averaged 17.3 points and a league-leading 23.4 rebounds per game for the Eltham Wildcats. Maley is one of the leading contenders to average a double-double during the 2021 WNBL season after no-one in the league achieved this feat in 2020.

Anneli Maley taking a rebound playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

After the Bendigo Spirit signed 24 year-old forward/centre Megan McKay Bendigo head coach Tracy York told wnbl.basketball in May 2021 “Megan burst onto the WNBL scene last year with Townsville after an impressive stint in Europe and successful College career with St Mary’s in the US. She’s a dominant, fit, and mobile post player and we think she will further develop while being an integral part of our group.”6 In a four season College career in the USA with St Mary’s from 2015/16 to 2018/19 McKay averaged 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, shooting the ball at 58.9% from the field.

As Townsville’s starting centre during the 2020 WNBL season McKay averaged 7.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 22.1 minutes per game. Playing predominantly as a back to the basket post player McKay shot a superb 64.3% from the field and was effective in on-ball screen’s as the screen setter, whether creating space for a teammate or rolling to the basket herself. McKay played 18 games for the Perry Lake Hawks during the 2021 NBL1 West season and averaged a double-double comprised of 15.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.   

Megan McKay during Bendigo Spirit’s warm-up for pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

In her 2020 debut WNBL season Mary Goulding shot the ball proficiently to make 49.2% of her field goal attempts, ranked third at the Spirit for scoring, rebounds and minutes per game, led the club in steals with 1.3 per game and provided flexibility by being able to play as a guard or a forward. Goulding excelled playing 19 games for the East Perth Eagles in the NBL1 West Conference during 2021, averaging 24.0 points and 13.6 rebounds per game to be named in the NBL1 West Conference First team. At the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Goulding represented the New Zealand Tall Ferns and played all five games, averaging 8.6 points per game with a team-high field goal accuracy of 65%.

Mary Goulding playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

On returning to the Villawood Properties Bendigo Spirit in 2021/22 and the opportunity for the club to play in front of home crowds again after the 2020 hub season Goulding told WNBL Media “I’m super excited to re-join the spirit after playing my first season in the WNBL last year. The team Tracy is putting together is filled with great talent and great character and I’m looking forward to playing alongside them and continuing to develop my own game. It’s also going to be pretty awesome to play in front of the legendary Spirit family home crowd after all the support they provided during last year’s hub.”7

Demi Skinner made her WNBL debut for Bendigo in 2019/20 and is playing her third consecutive season with the club in 2021/22. Bendigo’s perimeter prowess isn’t restricted to guards, forward/centre Skinner has made a total of 42 three-pointers across her first two WNBL seasons at an accuracy of 40.8%. In 2020 Skinner ranked third at Bendigo for three-pointers made behind Ernst and Lavey and led the Spirit for accuracy from long range among players that made at least five 3’s, in both the 2019/20 and 2020 seasons Skinner ranked in the top five at Bendigo for scoring.     

Demi Skinner shooting a free throw for Bendigo Spirit against the Dandenong Rangers at Traralgon Stadium on 26 October 2019

Cassidy McLean was a member of the Australian Sapphires team that won a gold medal at the 2016 Under-17 FIBA World Championships in Spain. McLean made her WNBL debut in 2016/17 and was a team-mate of Mitchell’s in the Sydney Flames WNBL championship. McLean and Dunlop were teammates with the Bendigo Spirit for the 2020 WNBL season and again with the Bendigo Braves during the 2021 NBL1 season. Braves head coach Mark Alabakov will be an Assistant coach of the Bendigo Spirit for the third consecutive season in 2021/22. McLean averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the Braves during the 2021 NBL1 South season.  

Cassidy Mclean playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

Piper Dunlop has grown up in Bendigo has represented junior Bendigo Braves teams and in 2020 made her WNBL debut with the Bendigo Spirit at 17 years of age. Weeks before making her debut Dunlop told wnbl.basketball “It’s a dream come true, growing up watching the Spirit and to now finally be a part of it both on and off the court, as well as the bubble experience, it’s insane and I am so happy to be here. It’s a once-off opportunity I will treasure for the rest of my life.”8 For Bendigo Spirit in 2020 Dunlop averaged 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds per 6.5 minutes court-time in eight games and had a field goal accuracy of 53.3%.

Piper Dunlop during the introductions for Bendigo Spirit’s pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

During 2021 Dunlop has been studying year 12 at Catherine McAuley College in Bendigo. On 14 May, 2021 Bendigo Spirit announced that they had signed 18 year-old Dunlop to a full contracted position. Bendigo head coach York commented on Dunlop “She has transitioned from a training player to development player and now to a full contracted position. Piper epitomes the pathway we have in Bendigo and Australian basketball to reach the highest level. When she got her opportunity on court (in 2020) it was clear she has the ability, work ethic, and coachability to perform at WNBL level. That’s why offering Piper a contracted position and to keep her in Bendigo was an easy decision.”9 In 15 games for the Bendigo Braves in NBL1 South Dunlop averaged 9.00 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

The final recruit for Bendigo’s main roster, experienced forward Carly Boag has played four WNBL seasons with the Sydney Uni Flames, including being a part of the Flames 2016/17 championship winning team alongside Mitchell and playing all 13 games in 2020. During the 2021 NBL1 West season Boag played 19 games for Mandurah Magic, averaging 14.8 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.

Carly Boag playing for Bendigo Spirit in a pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

The Bendigo Spirit’s roster for the 2021/22 WNBL season is completed with two development players – guard Bella Stratford and forward Alana Goodchild. In her freshman year at college for Cal State Fullerton Stratford averaged 4.2 point and 16.1 minutes per game in 2020/21 and now returns to the Spirit, having been a development player for the club during the 2019/20 WNBL season. Forward, Goodchild has represented Australia at junior level where she has been coached by York.

Alana Goodchild and Anneli Maley smiling on the bench after teammate Cassidy McLean block’s a shot in Bendigo Spirit’s pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Casey Stadium on 20 November 2021

On the importance of young players having opportunities as development players in the WNBL York told WNBL Media “We saw how our development program benefitted Piper last year. Being around the team, taking part in training, and getting on the floor for a few games saw her come on in leaps and bounds. And with a full WNBL contract this season, the world is Piper’s oyster. This is what being a development player is all about. We have a great opportunity to help develop the next stars of our game, and show them how great a club the Spirit is.”10

Recent WNBL seasons excluding the 2020 hub season have commenced in October. Due to COVID-19 and border restriction issues the start of the season was delayed until early December and travel between states was minimised early in the 2021/22 WNBL season. The fixture was released on 26 October, the WNBL’s Executive General Manager, Paul Maley commented “The priority this season is for the players to play in front of fans, it’s imperative for our Clubs and the League that we have a home and away season. The delay to the season opener will allow us to have crowds at the games which is a great win for the fans.”11 The 2021/22 WNBL season will be broadcast on television by free to air network ABC, Fox Sports and Kayo.

Villawood Bendigo Spirit commence the 2021/22 WNBL season with a road game against the Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday 4 December and host their first home game at Bendigo Stadium on Wednesday 8 December against the Melbourne Boomers. Over a 16 round regular season each WNBL club plays 21 games during 2021/22. Bendigo Spirit’s first three games are against fellow Victorian clubs Southside Flyers and Melbourne Boomers. Villawood Bendigo Spirit will play most of their home games at Bendigo Stadium but also play one home game against Adelaide on Saturday 19 February at the Mildura Sporting Precinct.

The Villawood Bendigo Spirit roster includes four experienced players that have tasted WNBL Championship success comprised of two players that have done so with other clubs in Mitchell and Boag as well as two players that won a title at Bendigo as teammates early in their career – Lavey and Garrick. This quartet will perform pivotal roles for the Spirit in 2021/22 with their performance on the court, the leadership they provide and the mentoring they can provide to their teammates who are all under 26 years of age, most of whom will experience playing in front of a passionate home crowd at Bendigo Stadium for the first time. A trio of players – Goulding, McLean and Dunlop have only played for Bendigo in the 2020 hub season. Lavey and Skinner are the two Bendigo players returning from the 2019/20 season when the club last had the opportunity to play at home. Frontcourt recruits Maley and McKay will provide rebounding and defense as well as increasing the number of scoring options the Spirit have.

With the recruitment of Mitchell Bendigo Spirit wont have the same level of reliance on Lavey as they did during the 2019/20 and 2020 WNBL seasons. Having two quality point guards provides the Spirit with flexibility, enabling Mitchell and Lavey to rotate between the point guard and shooting guard positions. Three of the seven players on the Spirit 2021/22 roster that averaged more than 6.5 points per game during the 2020 season ranked in the WNBL’s top 15 for three pointers made last season in Mitchell, Garrick and Lavey whilst Skinner ranked in the top 20 despite averaging only 18.2 minutes court-time per game. The long-range prowess of this quartet is complemented by McKay, Maley and Goulding who only made a combined eight 3’s between them in 2020 but were able to make an impact closer to the basket. Of the players that made at least 10 field goals in 2020 McKay led the WNBL with a field goal accuracy of 64.5% and Goulding (49.2%) ranked in the top 15. Maley led the league in offensive rebounds and ranked in the top 10 for free throws made. Having several adept three point shooters combined with players that are great passers and effective in the pick and roll will enable the Villawood Bendigo Spirit to space the floor and generate a variety of scoring options on offense, both in terms of the method and the player.

Articles and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

References

1 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/spirits-biggest-signing-ever/

2 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/bendigo-spirit-announce-young-opals-return-to-bendigo/

3 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/maddie-is-back/

4 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/spirit-signs-another-star/

5 https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/7236886/wnbl-rebounding-machine-anneli-maley-signs-with-bendigo-spirit/

6 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/spirit-signs-tough-power-forward/

7 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/york-knows-theres-something-about-mary/

8 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/piper-dunlop-eager-to-bring-her-best-for-the-bendigo-spirit-in-the-2020-wnbl-season/

9 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/dunlop-a-shoo-in-for-spirit/

10 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/goodchild-signs-on-for-the-spirit/

11 https://wnbl.basketball/adelaide/news/its-coming-home-the-wnbl-21-22-season-set-to-reunite-with-fans/

Milestones and Misses

Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey, such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.

A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below:

https://milestonesandmisses.com/

The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. During 2020 and 2021 articles have been published on the following sportspeople:

WNBL

Lindsay Allen

Tessa Lavey

Ezi Magbegor

Maddison Rocci

Steph Talbot

Zitina Aokuso

Leilani Mitchell

Cayla George

Maddie Garrick

Sara Blicavs

Bec Cole

NBL

Nathan Sobey

AFL

Sam Walsh

Jack Steele

Luke Jackson

Harry McKay

Seb Ross

Nicky Winmar

Jayden Short

Clayton Oliver

Lenny Hayes

Tim Membrey

Rowan Marshall

AFLW

Georgia Patrikios

Alyce Parker

Tyla Hanks

Tyanna Smith

Tarni White

Caitlin Greiser

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