It has been a case of ‘back to the future’ for Bankstown as much of 2015’s championship winning lineup returned to the club after taking the year off in 2016. Briana Maimone, Jaydene Barnes, Adrianne Bywater, and Casey Samuels all made their way back to the Bruins as the club looked to atone for last year’s disappointing season. Comets duo Ellie Gleeson and Rhiaan Te-Hira made a perhaps surprising cross-town switch, whilst Marjy Grealish joined from Tamworth. Kelly Wells’ move to Perth was the team’s only significant player loss from 2016, whilst Maimone took on a player-coach role, replacing Jenny Lonergan as coach.
It has been a steady first half of the season for the Bruins, but it could have been so much better at this point. Whilst a 4-4 record to this point does provide a reasonable starting point, the Bruins should have had one more win and perhaps could have had two others. Having established a 15 point lead, Bankstown gave up a 35-12 fourth quarter to Newcastle in Suzy Batkovic’s first game to fall to an 83-75 loss in a game they really should have won. The Bruins have also fallen in tight contests to Norths and Manly, but can take heart from the fact that they have defeated Sutherland by 20 so far. That result is of note due to the fact that the second meeting between these two teams may be the deciding factor in the race for the fourth finals spot.
Bankstown’s draw so far has seen them play all eight opponents in their first eight games; a rarity in the league this year. From there, it may be easy to look at their remaining schedule and predict that they will finish 4-4, just the way they started. However, Newcastle are now without Suzy Batkovic, who played her last game on June 3, which alone makes Bankstown heavy favourites in that game. Regardless of how comfortably they should win certain games, it is imperative that Bankstown pick up wins in the games against teams that won’t be among the finals hunt, of which they have four. When the Bruins’ schedule is compared with Sutherland’s, it appears that the teams will be within a win of each other when they play on July 15. Having won the first meeting between the two teams, a win in this game is almost worth two wins as the Bruins would secure the season series. Sutherland would need to win by 23 points to take the season series, but the margin won’t matter if the result pushes the Sharks a win ahead of Bankstown.
The performance of Casey Samuels will no doubt be vital to Bankstown’s chances, with the former Sydney Uni Flames player averaging well in excess of 20 points per game to this point. Samuels will need support though, and whilst it won’t require five players to reach double figures every game, it will require two or three others to step up each game, regardless of who it is. Experience is on the Bruins’ side, and the team has reasonable depth to go alongside that experience. Whilst they may be just behind Sutherland due to the unbalanced nature of the schedule to this point, with a number of games in which they will be heavy favourites coming up, the Bruins may just have the edge by the time July 15 rolls around in what could be a pivotal matchup.