Bandits ‘must lift to honour a champion ’

ALBURY-Wodonga Bandits coach Brad Chalmers says if the Border club can’t get itself motivated for club stalwart Nick Payne’s 400th SEABL game tomorrow night it needs to take a good hard look at itself.

In almost poetic circumstances, the Bandits’ home finale against Nunawading will also most likely be the final time Payne suits up, with the 32-year-old moving overseas in the next week or so.

But Albury-Wodonga has not handled milestone matches particularly well in recent times and Chalmers said that statistic simply wasn’t acceptable.

“We’ve been notoriously bad at getting up for these kind of games,” Chalmers said.

“Whether it’s a cultural thing or just bad luck, I don’t know.

“But we need to use this to our advantage.

“If we can’t, well, I think it says a lot about the type of people around Nick.”

Chalmers, who previously held the Bandits record for games played, fondly remembered Payne breaking into the team in 1999 as a brash teenager who needed to be shown playing time was earned, not given.

But he also paid tribute to Payne’s dedication and work ethic — traits, Chalmers said, his younger teammates should be taking note of.

“It’s just a fantastic achievement,” Chalmers said.

“We’ve been together a long time — I was playing when he first arrived — and he learned a lot in a very short time.

“The best thing about him back then, he took everything on board.

“I’ve seen a lot of players, as a coach, not do that in recent times.

“Once he figured it out he’s been the ultimate professional.

“Dedicated and committed, this is what you’d like to see from the next generation of players.

“He was never the best shooter, athlete or defender but he got the absolute most out of a 16-year career.

“There’s not too many people who can say they’ve done that and it’s a damn fine effort.”

But Nunawading will be no pushovers, the Spectres riding a four-game winning streak and sitting second in the East Conference with a commanding 17-6 record.

With former Bandits playmaker Shane McDonald once again superbly directing traffic, the Spooks will have a major say in the SEABL playoffs.

“It’s a big challenge for us, they’ve played particularly well the past month,” Chalmers said.

“But it’s still five-on-five and we feel at our best we can compete with anyone.

“We need to use the home court and the occasion to our advantage and minimise their strengths and our own mistakes.

“Taking Shane (McDonald) out of executing their offence and stopping the ball in transition will be key.

“We can’t let them go to the races and we need to stay composed when they get in our faces, go back at them and give them a different look.”

TOMORROW: Nick Payne begins a new chapter as he farewells the Bandits, basketball and the Border.