This Ballarat Miners women's team is getting ready to take off, but we might have to wait a couple of weeks to see it at full flight.
There has been a decided focus by the club in the off-season to go local, but with a few added sure-fire hits to see the club return to the play-offs for the first time in a decade
What this squad has this year is a team that has mostly been together for a few seasons and should be ready to take the next step having missed post-season on the last day of the season.
Annie Collins, Millie Cracknell, Milly Sharp, Jemma Amoore, Molly Mathews and of course the evergreen club legend Kristy Rinaldi have all played plenty of basketball together now and should have a strong idea of what each other provides.
But while that group will form the core, there's real excitement about what else is to come, none more so than the return of WNBL and international Abbey Wehrung back in Ballarat after a successful run at Bendigo.
Wehrung will provide both the polish and leadership the mostly young group needs.
There's been a decided shift in the way the club has gone about recruiting, focusing away from the NBL players. Of course Jade Melbourne, who was an outstanding success last season is now trying her skill in the WNBA while Zitina Aokuso has headed off to Mount Gambier alongside Isabella Brancatisano.
This leaves some gaps which will need to be filled.
The first will come from the acquisition of the club's first import since 2019, Swedish national Emma Karamovic.
At 6 foot 2, she will provide the height that looks to be lacking on paper. Karamovic has had a strong international career in Iceland, Spain and Germany and comes with wraps on her all-court game, including strong outside shooting.
The club is understood to be ready to announce at least two new faces in coming weeks, both are expected to bring experience and on-court knowledge to the team.
The club has also gone local with its head coach appointment with highly regarded Ballarat-based Rob Baker taking over from David Herbert.
Baker knows this squad well having coached many of core of the team in juniors. He won't be afraid to make the hard calls and having seen him in action during training and the pre-season competition, you can expect a disciplined and tactical master at work.
So with that in mind, a couple of home games to start the season over the first two weeks might be the perfect way for the team to get itself into the season given it may take a couple of weeks to gel.
It's been a frustrating few years for the Miners women, maybe even more-so than the men, which is why the club should be aiming to strike now and start to build a team that can return it to the promised land.
COACH'S COMMENTS - Rob Baker (Head coach)
"We've got a full squad, we'll announce another couple who will arrive once their European commitments are over. We've got Millie (Cracknell), Annie (Collins), Molly (Mathews), (Milly) 'Sharpy, Kristy (Rinaldi), Abbey (Wehrung) will be hugely important.
"I have to be honest, it hurt us a lot to see Abbey playing Knox and Bendigo, I've coached her when she was 12 and I have to admit I hated seeing her in the Bendigo shorts. As soon as I was offered the job she was the first playing I reached out to. We sat down with a coffee and there was no problems.
"Everything that's come since has come on the back of that conversation. She's been able to reach out to other players, it's drawn an interest to us. One of our players reached out to Abbey and that's how we got her across as well.
We've got a huge variety that one week you'll have someone like Abbey score 30 points and give out 12 assists, and the next game they might miss out all together, but we've got so many that can step and play that game at any time. Any given night, we'll have someone who can fit into a role. We've got so many different components, I've got no doubt that will be our strength all season.
"I've never really wanted height, I believe, particularly in the female game, a big 'big isn't a necessity. I'd rather go smaller, agile, quicker, than big and slow so that's what we've tried to build our squad around. The main thing I looked for in this squad is character over talent.
Abbey walked in and straight away the girls took to her, Emma walked in and was everyone's best mate on day one. We have some outstanding people. The least of my worries is how they'll gel.
"To me a good Miners game is a game where we can control the pace. Every coach wants to run the ball, I want to make sure we can lay it up on the running. We want to be able to control the offensive and defensive end through our structure and that's something we've worked on since day one.
"The last few practice games, if we were a bit bare-boned, it's been our structure that's got us through. It hasn't been ideal all pre-season as we haven't had everyone here. We've got girls who will have learned the play book and it's just a matter of seeing how they go.
"There's no easy games in South, you see out west some big thrashings, but you don't get that here. I've done the assistant coaching for many years, but this will be the first NBL1 senior group I've had, I think it's the exciting bit, I've tried to push the local connections. I started at under 12 C Grade and have worked my way up, and a lot of the girls here have done exactly the same thing. I want those young under 12 girls now to look at us training and say, 'yes, I can do it' too, that makes us stronger in the long-term.
MEET YOUR MINERS
MINERS WOMEN'S FIXTURE (home games in bold)
Melbourne Tigers (H), Bendigo Braves (H), Keilor Thunder (A), Nunawading Spectres (A), Hobart Chargers (A), Launceston Tornadoes (A), Dandenong Rangers (H), Diamond Valley Eagles (A), Frankston Blues (A), Knox Raiders (H), Waverley Falcons (H), Casey Cavaliers (A), Sandringham Sabres (H), Melbourne Tigers (A), Launceston Tornadoes (H), Mount Gambier Pioneers (H), Kilsyth Cobras (A), Ringwood Hawks (H), Eltham Wildcats (H), Geelong Supercats (A), Diamond Valley Eagles (H), Bendigo Braves (A)