Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower says his team merits underdog status for Sunday’s WNBL grand final against Townsville despite being runaway minor premiers.
Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower cheekily insists his runaway WNBL minor premiers are the underdog for Sunday’s grand final against Townsville and claims he has some new tricks to throw at the Fire.
Spearheaded by veteran guard Kristi Harrower, who may be playing her final WNBL game, Bendigo are seeking back-to-back-titles.
For the second-straight year they are hosting the season decider against a Townsville side looking for their first championship and a maiden major national title for any north Queensland sporting side.
Bendigo have won 25 of their past 27 home games and dropped just five of their past 51 at all venues.
Harrower’s underdog claim is based on the fact Townsville won two of their three regular season clashes, though Spirit won the most recent encounter.
“I think we go in as the underdogs, as much as we dominated the league, but that means nothing in one game,” Harrower told AAP.
“We’re now facing a team that has had the better of us for the year.
“We’ve certainly put in some new stuff over the last fortnight that they won’t have seen before, so we hope that gives us a bit of an edge.”
Townsville’s no-nonsense coach Chris Lucas gave Harrower’s underdog assertion short shrift.
“How can he possibly claim to be the underdogs, when they were six games clear?,” Lucas told AAP.
“He can play all the mind game he likes – that’s not correct.
“If they are claiming they are underdogs, he’s just trying to take the pressure of his own team.
“We’re under no illusions it’s going to be a very tough challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.” Lucas made an audacious assertion of his own saying he thought Bendigo would actually be tougher without injured forward Elyse Penaluna.
Harrower says this is the one weekend more than any other he will miss the services of his Opals star, as he battles to quell the influence of Townsville’s champion centre Suzy Batkovic, who has just won her third-straight league MVP award.
Both coaches cited defence as the big key to Sunday’s season decider.
However, neither are short of offensive firepower.
Townsville have the competition’s second leading scorer in Batkovic, who is looking to win a third WNBL title with a different club at the end of a fine first season with the Fire.
Fire’s Stephanie Cumming and Micaela Cocks also have a double-digit scoring average.
Bendigo also have multiple reliable scoring options with frontcourt titans Gabrielle Richards and Kelsey Griffin leading the way and the peerless Kristi Harrower pulling the strings.
Fire also boast a fine veteran point guard of their own in Rachael McCully, who will make her 300th WNBL appearance on Sunday.
The battle for supremacy on the glass will be crucial, with the game featuring three of the league’s top rebounders in Batkovic, Richards and Griffin.