ALBURY-Wodonga Bandits skipper Michael Watson says the Border outfit is under no illusions as to the magnitude of tomorrow night’s SEABL clash with the Mount Gambier Pioneers at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
Having tasted victory just once in an indifferent start to the season, the Bandits need to register their first home win of the season, if only to bolster their collective confidence.
And crucially, with a win, Albury-Wodonga can keep pace with the East conference top four, sitting just half a game behind Ballarat in the standings.
But the Pioneers present a formidable challenge, stacked with overseas and NBL talent and yet to taste defeat in six games thus far.
“They’re probably the benchmark team of the competition,” Watson said.
“They were unlucky not to win the whole thing last year and if we don’t play with the right intensity then we could get blown out.
“We’re under no illusions, we need to play well enough to beat them, they don’t beat themselves.
“But we’ve got no excuses, everyone is fit and firing.”
Watson is in his first season as Bandits captain, having replaced long-time leader Nick Payne.
The former Dandenong junior, who has also played for the Rangers and Frankston, will play his 100th game for the Bandits later this year.
“I love it here, I consider it my home club,” said Watson, who previously played 63 games for the Bandits from 2005 to 2009.
“It’s been a little different as captain, last year I was probably quieter, just counselling players.
“This year, I’ve probably tried to be more vocal with the entire group.”
Albury-Wodonga pushed powerhouse Geelong to the limit in the Border club’s unsuccessful road trip before the Easter break and Watson said the Bandits were sure they could replicate that performance tomorrow night.
“We’re confident; we lost to Geelong but that was the best we’d played all year,” Watson said.
“We think we can match it with the elite teams of the league; we certainly don’t fear any team.
“Stringing four quarters together — while it’s a cliche, it’s also true — is something that we’re yet to do.
“But we know our best is good enough, which is pleasing.”
Tip-off is 8pm, with the Lady Bandits’ match against Frankston to start at 6pm.