Ballarat Miners & Ballarat Rush – 2016 Season Preview

By Kasey Cornwell

Head Coach David Flint is really pleased with how his team is shaping up in preparation for the season ahead. Despite only getting the full list together last week, the players have been enormously involved with getting themselves and the team ready for round 1.

This season Dave has assembled a team with a heavy Ballarat influence, with 7 out of the 10 strong line-up classified as Ballarat local players. He is happy with the inclusions, and thinks that this year’s squad will be well balanced. Flint is looking forward to watching Kasey Burton, Molly Matthews and Abbey Wehrung improve, and utilise their WNBL experience on the Minerdome court. Other Ballarat locals, Sophie Alexander, ready to go after recovering well from off season surgery and Kristy Rinaldi, once again ready to share her experience and leadership on the court.

Bringing in import Joy Burke, the side will be boosted with her height, her high scoring averages and her College and WNBL experience. Bendigo Spirit players Ashleigh Spencer and Kerryn Harrington will also have an immediate impact for the Rush this season, and bring valuable WNBL experience to the side.

Dave notes that the Youth League inclusions of Eliza Roughead and Lydia Brooks will also get a chance to show Ballarat what they can contribute to the team.

Team chemistry takes time but Flint thinks that his side has already shown early signs of being a cohesive unit and a team that enjoys playing together. Dave knows he has a talented bunch of players that appreciate what each player brings to the team. Having 10 in the squad is also great for team morale, with plenty of support for each other on and off the court with a long 22 game season ahead.

Flint is expecting an obvious improvement from the Rush’s last 2 seasons, which the team only managed 13 wins. Whilst he realises that the competition gets stronger each year with players and coaches continually lifting their game, he sees no reason why Ballarat can’t contend for the Conference Championship and even the SEABL Championship on the back of a strong pre-season and impressive player signings.

Making the move from the Miners to the Rush was a big one for Flint, after leaving an environment, which he worked so hard to create with Eric Hayes. He is pleased to be in the role of Head Coach of the Rush however, and is enjoying his work with the team, developing players and impacting the female basketball program.

Looking to Friday night, it is important to start the season well, taking advantage of playing on the home court, said Flint. He and the team are focused on coming out ready to open the season strong against regional rivals, the Bendigo Lady Braves. The rivalry definitely adds a bit more incentive to get the win, but the team is keeping it in perspective, as it is only one game, and there are a further 21 in the season ahead.

The Ballarat Miners have tackled this preseason head-on, with many new signings, the team has been adjusting to a new structure and new individuals. Despite the team facing some adversity and having some room for improvement, Head Coach Eric Hayes believes his team has been preparing well for the season ahead.

He notes that the team is a very different line-up to the one we saw last year, with the team not being as guard heavy and having greater flexibility. This is highlighted by the inclusion of the athletic utilities, Earnest Ross and Ollie Bailey who both have the ability to play multiple positions. Returning Ballarat Miners Roy Booker, Chris Smith, Casey Marshall and Dyson King-Hawea have had a strong preseason and return back to the Minerdome refreshed and ready to improve on a solid season last year. The return of Ballarat local Ash Constable is exciting and adds further dynamic to the team, with Constable’s shot looking dangerous the competition should be wary.  And then come May the Miners will be further boosted with the addition of big man, James Hunter. Sam Short and Tristan Fisher will also get a further chance to show their improvement from the Youth League.

The team has played a few preseason games together, and this has given the team a chance to connect and develop their chemistry. Getting the team to out of town tournaments has helped Eric get the team to bond and build relationships off the court as well as improve their dynamic on the court.

This season Hayes wants more wins, he said simply that wins will make him content as coach. However he and the team will take each game as it comes, and from every game there will be new things to work on, continue with or change. Eric will be happy to adapt the team’s game style if required depending on how the season pans out.

Hayes is confident that he has more experience behind him as Coach, feeling that he has learnt a lot from the 2015 season, and knowing that his team has confidence in him. He has adapted to a new set of coaching staff and they are working well together.

Looking to the season opener against fierce rivals, the Bendigo Braves, Eric would love to have a win to open the 2016 SEABL season. A victory would give his team confidence, especially against a worthy opponent, but whatever happens it will be a good learning experience. He and the team will be doing whatever it takes to get the game over the line.