Pirates sail on to new season

By Andrew Johnston

THE new CBL season has arrived for the Echuca Senior and Lady Pirates.

But the competition will look quite different to the 2018-19 season.

The Lady Pirates will remain in a revamped North East conference that loses the Seymour Blasters and Wallan Panthers, but gains the Maryborough Blazers, Kyneton Tigers, Swan Hill Flyers and Bendigo Braves.

The senior Pirates have jumped conferences and will now appear in the North Western conference, which will see them come up against new opposition.

Returning senior Pirates coach Leo Tenace said his team was looking forward to the challenge.

‘‘Being in a new conference, it’s hard to predict what our season is going to be like,’’ he said.

‘‘We know a bit about these teams. We’ve played some of them before and while we know that teams like Bendigo are obviously going to be strong, we feel as though we can match up well against a lot of them.’’

The senior Pirates had one of their better years in terms of form, but were only able to manage the two wins in the 2017-18 season.

The team will look to continue that upward trend this season.

‘‘If we had stayed in our old conference, I think five or six wins was manageable, so that’s the goal I have set.

‘‘I think five to six wins will go close to getting us into finals this season, so that will be our goal.’’

A season of health will play a key role in getting there.

‘‘We are pretty healthy right now, and we want to stay that way,’’ he said.

‘‘Tyler Phillips for example was one of our best players last year, and he missed most of the season with injury, so if we keep him and others fit, that’s an instant improvement.’’

And the team has also added some more talent to the line-up.

‘‘We’ve added Riley Clarke, who has been a state representative for basketball in Queensland, and will be a huge inclusion. he’s a taller guard, which is something we need.

‘‘We also have Luke Rosendale who has played state basketball and Glenn Hopson also coming into the side.’’

Across the court, the Lady Pirates are looking to improve massively on a poor 2017-18 that saw the side go without a win for the year.

Coach Simon Eishold will return to the helm, and looks to bring some success to the team.

‘‘We want to be competitive,’’ Eishold said.

‘‘We had a rough season in terms of wins and losses in the 17-18 season, but we felt by the end of the year that we were playing some pretty good basketball and there was a good feeling around the place.’’

Eishold said the new teams in the league would provide new opportunities for the team.

‘‘We like to travel, we like to go and play in new buildings against new sides, so that is exciting.

‘‘There are some bigger city sides coming in which provides you with a new challenge, and some smaller ones which balances it out.’’

The girls have been in training for the past few weeks, with netball season ending providing more opportunities to train.

‘‘It is a challenge to get that preparation in,’’ Eishold said.

‘‘But it also means they have been active and working on their fitness all winter, which is a massive advantage as we enter the new year.’’

Both teams begin their season in Swan Hill on Saturday night, before returning to Echuca for a Sunday showdown with Bendigo.