LOOKING back on the year that was for the Albury-Wodonga Bandits, it's hard not to view it as a case of ‘what could have been'.
The squad, led by import duo TJ Robinson and JT Terrell, plus third-year guard Deba George, had talent in spades.
New Zealand stretch four Mitch Newton showed he deserved a shot at SEABL level, Darcy Harding and Sawyer Dearborn both took their respective games up a notch, and Jack Duck enjoyed a strong season after battling niggling injuries in 2016.
It was a shame then, that the Bandits simply couldn’t seem to put it all together with any level of consistency.
There were reasons for this – jettisoning disappointing young forward Justin Browning after just five games was the right decision, but it robbed the team of some much needed height.
Terrell was a great replacement, and easily one of the most compelling players in the league, but was more suited to playing the two-spot, rather than sharing minutes there and at small forward with Dearborn and Joel Spear.
Bench depth continued to be a problem, as injuries to Dearborn, Harding and Newton all took their toll and robbed them of any continuity.
Obi Kyei was signed late in the season to replace Newton, but played only one game before breaking his foot.
Through it all though, there were glimpses of a truly explosive team.
The Bandits played with on the the highest tempos of any team in the SEABL in 2017, which led to some tremendous highlights.
The most memorable of those?
Darcy Harding's game-winner against Geelong, a three-ball on the buzzer that brought the house down in Albury.
Despite missing the finals for the first time since 2015, the Bandits continued to be competitive.
So what needs to happen for them to return to the upper echelon of the competition next year?
They’ve started well – Lamar Mallory, a former Bandit, and Rashad Hassan, are high-floor imports who will anchor the frontcourt.
Perhaps investing in some lucky charms?
An injury-free season would be sure-fire way to help the Bandits improve their record, as would an improved defence.
Only time will tell if the stars will align in 2018.