Having been docked at bay for a near 11 months, the Echuca Lady Pirates are setting sail again next weekend. The bounty in their sights – the Country Basketball League’s North East Women’s Championship.
When Basketball Victoria announced the return dates of the Country Basketball League (CBL) 2021 season, there was a combined sense of elation and relief amongst the country associations.
The difficult events of 2020, sparked from the introduction of COVID-19 and government restrictions, put a hold on basketball competition in a way no one had ever experienced.
For Lisa Baker, Echuca Lady Pirates’ coach for the last decade, everything that unfolded in 2020 could only be described in a word – a whirlwind.
“Wow, what a whirlwind it has been,” Baker expressed. “We stopped competition in March and have not yet resumed competition for Echuca Basketball.
“We have finally been able to get a squad of players on the court for training, which is a massive effort.
“After so much time away from the competitive game we all love, it is really good to finally get back on court and set our eyes on a goal all too familiar.”
The goal Baker speaks of is the Championship title in CBL’s North West Women’s conference. Just one of seven conferences within CBL’s 2021 shortened season, Echuca will compete against five other teams for supremacy in the short span of two months.
Finishing third in the 2019/20 CBL season, Baker said the Lady Pirates still have the taste for finals and aspire for nothing less than a spot in finals this year.
“We had a really good season,” Baker said. “We only missed out on reaching the grand final by losing our semi-final game by seven points against Maryborough Blazers – it was a massive team effort by coaching staff and team captains to get where we did.”
Echuca will have to wait until Round 6 until they face their old Maryborough rivals, however, will have a challenge in their season-opener in a fortnight against reigning champions Bendigo Braves in Round 2.
With high class opposition within their conference, Baker believes every team will bring their own challenge for Echuca to overcome.
“Honestly, our biggest competition will be all the teams” Baker said. “We had some great, close matches with most of them last season.
“If anything, our greatest challenge for 2021 will be not having had the preparation time we usually do before a season, but this is something every other team will be experience so it puts us all in the same boat.”
Over recent CBL seasons, the Echuca Lady Pirates introduced some new faces and rebuilt their team for the future. Baker feels this season is where that decision will be rewarded and combined with a simple game plan for success.
“We have welcomed back past players from previous years,” Baker said. “This has helped immensely with the sort of basketball that we now play,
“We proved last season that we were a force and hopefully we can do that again this season. We are keeping it simple this year as we have not had a lot of time to practice due to COVID-19, however I am expecting the playmakers will be the same girls who performed outstandingly last season in Zara Pearson and Georgie Eishold.”
Zara Pearson’s strength in the CBL competition was bolstered last season when she was announced as the Most Valuable Player for North West Women and secured a place in the conference’s All Star Five alongside dynamic team mate Georgie Eishold.
While no teams are certain to claim the title this season in CBL, Lisa Baker is one adamant coach who is ready for her Echuca Lady Pirates to demonstrate three simple words – “anything is possible!”
CBL will tip off Saturday 9 January with the Echuca Lady Pirates playing their first match Sunday 16 January at Echuca Basketball Stadium from 12pm.