Complete set of Bandits

THE Albury-Wodonga Bandits yesterday finalised their roster for next year’s SEABL title defence with the key additions of guard Michael Watson and forward Darcy Harding.

Watson, who played 63 games for the Border club from 2005 to 2009 before suiting up for Dandenong and then Frankston, is expected to provide plenty of backcourt defence and rebounding.

A 201-centimetre small forward, Harding, 18, has recently completed his basketball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport and Bandits coach Brad Chalmers will look for the Bateman’s Bay native to add some energy and firepower off the bench.

The dual signings add some much-needed depth — and in Watson’s case, experience — to the Bandits’ bench stocks, which were painfully thin at times last season.

Yesterday’s announcement concludes a fruitful off-season for the Bandits, who managed to retain the majority of their championship-winning squad, with key players Momo Ntumba, Ben Hollis and Alex Opacic all re-signing for next season.

Along with Watson and Harding, the only other new face will be import playmaker Eric Vann, who replaces Bendigo-bound star Jazz Ferguson.

Chalmers said he was more than satisfied with his roster heading into next season.

“Having Watto and Darcy wanting to play with us next season are certainly exciting signings,” Chalmers said.

“They’ll really fit well with our current group and the future direction of the men’s program.

“We have successfully kept our core group together and I think adding a new import in Eric Vann and these two guys with their different strengths, basketball smarts and ability to play both ends will give us the depth and the boost we have been looking for.

“Hopefully we can remain a very dangerous team again, capable of another deep playoff run next season.”

Watson admitted he was excited to return to the Border outfit after firmly establishing himself as one of the SEABL’s premier defensive players at the Rangers and Blues.

“I’ve been looking to come back here the past few years, just the work situation hasn’t been right,” Watson said.

“I’m especially excited to be playing alonside a really good mate in (captain) Nick Payne again.

“Coming to the reigning champs, I don’t think there’s any pressure on me, I bring a level head and that consistency Ice (Chalmers) is looking for.

“I’ve got the hunger to make playoffs, win titles and help the guys stay motivated and avoid any premiership hangover.”

Mick Watson in action for the Bandits in 2009.

Mick Watson in action for the Bandits in 2009.