THE Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits will welcome a familiar — and much-loved — face to the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon when they play host to the Geelong Lady Supercats.
Former captain Alex Duck will play her first game against her old team after crossing to Geelong during the off-season in a move that was seen as an opportunity to further her development as a player.
Duck played 109 games for the Border club, twice winning SEABL’s youth player of the year award and helped lead the Lady Bandits to their maiden — and so far, only — playoff appearance in 2009.
It will be a very different Lady Bandits outfit she will be playing against, indeed, only Tenille Collins, Maddy Plunkett and Montana Farrah-Seaton remains from last year’s squad that won just the one game.
Duck admitted she would be heading up the Hume Highway with mixed emotions.
“I’m feeling a bit strange about it,” Duck said.
“We’ve got a game on Saturday night first, so my focus is on that but come Sunday I think I’ll be excited and nervous and it’s all very strange.
“It’s not so much a matter of playing against former teammates but there’s my friends on that team.”
With the Lady Supercats having a game the night before, new Lady Bandits coach James Ballinger admitted he was eyeing the game as a winnable one.
“They have to play the night before, they may be a little tired, so I do like our chances to get up, be aggressive and put some pressure on some weary legs,” Ballinger said.
“I think we started nervously last week but I was encouraged after that so if we can pick up where we left off I think that would be good for our confidence.”
For Ballinger, two key lessons from the opening round defeat to Dandenong was the need to keep import Rachel Maenpaa out of foul trouble and even more crucially, to not let opposition teams have their way on the offensive glass.
“Some of her (Maenpaa’s) fouls were from being over-aggressive but I don’t expect that to be an ongoing issue,” Ballinger said.
“It was also from the rest of us putting her in a bad situation where she’s got two or three people coming at her.
“Dandenong got 21 offensive boards, that’s been an emphasis this week and again, it starts with defence.
“So if we can do a better job on the ball, then we can go find a player and put a body on them, rather than getting involved in a jumping battle, which, as we saw, wasn’t particularly successful for us.”