OK, now for the hard part.
Heading into the South East Australian Basketball League season, the Albury-Wodonga Bandits find themselves in a most unfamiliar position.
Defending national SEABL champions.
It’s a scenario never before faced by the Border club, who had previously only won one conference title — in 2001 — in its almost three decades of existence.
And if Bandits fans are worried about a post-title hangover, well, think again.
The fairytale season capped with the most unlikely of title runs is already in the rear-view mirror, according to coach Brad Chalmers, who, despite being a first-year mentor, was also the league’s Coach of the Year.
But he was still confident the Border club was capable of repeating the magic.
“I think it’s possible, we just have to take care of business,” Chalmers said.
“You’ve got 28 games to perform and that puts you in a position where you get to one-and-done games.
“If you can get a home final, that gives you the best chance of progressing and I think one of the best things about last year was that we were really able to build some momentum on the road.
“If we can get ourselves top-two or top-three and get a home final, I think we’re in a good spot.
“So yeah, back-to-back is achievable but the regular season is key.”
And Chalmers knows all too well that every team in the league would be lining up to try to knock the champs off their perch.
But rather than shy away from the challenge, he said the club was relishing the heightened expectations.
“We haven’t openly discussed it but we all know that we’re not happy with where we are,” Chalmers said.
“We’re happy we won a championship but at the same time, I don’t think we’ve realised our full potential.
“We had a good, solid six weeks at the end of the season but I think prior to that, we were just in the mix with a few other teams.
“So now, let’s see what we can do over a full season in that same mode; the way I see it is we’ve got a lot more to improve.
“We’ve got a ceiling we haven’t reached, we’ve done a good job but now it’s about doing that for a full season, that means we’ve developed.
“On that comes the expectations, the community only sees the end result so we’re challenged by what lies ahead.”
One thing that won’t change in year two of Chalmers’ tenure is the tough defensive mindset that was the hallmark of the Bandits’ success last season.
Chalmers said his players were much more aware now of what it took to be an elite team and that offensive success would be a by-product of the defensive philosophy.
“It will be defence-first, that’s not going to change while I’m doing it,” Chalmers said.
“The players understand that, one of our key goals is to be one of the top-two teams in the league, defensively.
“We’ve got that as one of our main aims, I think offensively we’ll be fine, it’s asking if we want to do the hard work again.
“If we do that, then good things happen offensively, we’ve got the talent to do that and the system that lets them naturally play.
“The culture is better now, our pre-season has been really intense, our conditioning work with Allfit Albury and professionalism is improved as well.”
The Border outfit has retained most of its championship core, indeed, with some savvy recruiting, the Bandits are a deeper, more balanced team than last year.
Although the North East club lost All-SEABL star guard Jazz Ferguson to the Bendigo Braves over the off-season, the Bandits coaching staff is quietly confident they’ve found a potentially better floor general in new playmaker Eric Vann.
It remains to be seen whether Vann brings the same intensity and leadership that Ferguson provided but the early impressions have been promising.
Noticeably quicker and stronger than his predecessor, Vann impressed in an intraclub scrimmage two weeks ago, showing an explosive presence at both ends of the court.
Chalmers said it might take a few weeks for Vann to find his feet but when he did, look out.
“I think across the board, he’s going to be explosively exciting,” Chalmers said.
“His talent levels are really high, he just needs to work out our structure and how we go about things.
“Especially defensively, if he can get in that headspace early, then he’s in the best position to succeed.
“Because then everything else will come, he and I will have that understanding and you really need the coach and your best players to be on the same page.
“The things he can do with the ball are certainly going to give the fans some excitement and it never hurts when a guy is 181 centimetres and can get up and dunk the ball.
“I’m really looking forward to him being a bright spark for us.”
Perhaps just as crucial as the retention of the majority of the championship roster, the Bandits’ bench depth has been improved substantially with the additions of guard Michael Watson and young forward Darcy Harding.
Watson, who previously played for the Bandits in two separate stints between 2005 and 2009, will provide plenty of leadership and physical defence, while Harding, a 200-centimetre forward, adds some much-needed height to the bench stocks.
“I think with Watto, obviously defence is going to be his strong point,” Chalmers said.
“It allows us to really attack certain guards with another strong defender and that really gives us a chance of keeping fresh bodies in the game.
“He’s an excellent rebounder and a real glue guy, too.
“The other addition is Darcy and although he’s only young, he’s got a good stroke, understands the game and isn’t over-awed by anything.
“I think he can come in and give us some quality minutes as well.
“Our depth is much better and I think it bodes well for us to be able to compete at a high level.”
In a boost for the Border outfit, the season draw is a much more balanced affair than last year’s schedule, where the Bandits faced a road-heavy second half.
First-up in the championship defence is a grand final rematch with the Dandenong Rangers on Saturday night and Chalmers admitted he expected the visitors to be keen on exacting a small slice of revenge at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
“The first seven games, we’ve got some real quality teams to tackle,” Chalmers said.
“I think with Dandenong, you think about the championship game and how difficult it would’ve been for them.
“They’ll be coming here with a fair bit of smoke coming from the ears, I would’ve thought.
“So it’s an opportunity for us to see where we’re at, and for them, too, early in the season.”
Ultimately, the Bandits will now be judged on wins and losses — winning a championship has that effect — and Chalmers understands that external perception but said his team had worked too long to throw away their its hard-won respect.
“I’m really looking forward to the season and the players are, too,” Chalmers said.
“You put in so much hard work in the pre-season, we just want to get the season happening.
“I’m really excited about our potential, our talent level is high, I’m really happy with the group we’ve got.
“It’s now about hopefully me doing a good job of preparation every week and making sure the guys are in situations where they can thrive.
“The continuity we’ve had gives me a real sense that we can go back in and be confident in what we’re doing.”