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Rd.5 WNBL: Simon says: "I'm OK"


BENDIGO Spirit coach Simon Pritchard will be back in the saddle marshalling his troops this round after an irregular heartbeat brought his WNBL Round 4 to a premature end.

It occurred during Bendigo's thrilling win over Melbourne on Monday at State Basketball Centre and led to his hospitalisation.

But it's all back under control and the popular coach will be on the sidelines in Bendigo to orchestrate his club's welcome of a Sydney Uni team desperately trying to recover ground after starting the season with an amazing six straight losses.

The Flames are at Melbourne tonight, looking to reverse their recent home loss to the Boomers to avoid dropping to a less-than-magnificent-seven straight defeats.

WHAT? ME WORRY? Simon Pritchard has the Alfred E Neuman approach to life and coaching.

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Sydney at Melbourne

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THEY produced a memorable first clash in Sydney before Melbourne prevailed 87-75. But the level of Sydney's desperation then wasn't where it is now, the Flames falling off the pace with each advancing round and needing wins on the road and immediately. Does that pressure bring out their best or make it impossible to play with freedom? Brittany Smart has been a terrific pick-up for the Flames but the loss of Tahlia Tupaea (to concussion at their first meeting) has hit the visitors. Belinda Snell hardly has missed a beat but Sydney will need to be on song to inflict a second home loss on Melbourne in a week. Boomers to win.

THE REST OF ROUND 5

Canberra at Perth

FIRST versus second? It's pretty safe to anoint this the match of the round, Canberra living up to the hype, Perth surprising all since starting the season with a home loss. The Lynx have done a great job on the road, have clinched the season-series with champion Townsville and now will want to make a statement against the Caps. The problem for the home team is threefold - namely Kia Nurse, Kelsey Griffin, Leilani Mitchell. And Kelly Wilson also has been enjoying herself, throwing a lot of pressure back onto Katie-Rae Ebzery, Lauren Mansfield, Asia Taylor and Kayla Steindl. The Capitals just do appear to be slightly ahead at this point and probably deserve favouritism.

Dandenong at Adelaide

STEPH Blicavs has her first outing against Dandenong - Aimie Clydesdale can prepare her for how it feels - in a pivotal game for both clubs. The Rangers are on a three-game losing skid after opening with two good wins while Lightning has not played a poor game but has shot itself in the foot repeatedly. Adelaide's shooting accuracy - or inaccuracy to be precise - has been its downfall in two of its three defeats, its defence and pressure off the charts. But if you can't consistently put the ball through the hoop... Bec Cole, Rachel Jarry and versatile import Betnijah Laney loom as tough issues for the home team but the odds, at home, still favour Adelaide.

Sydney at Bendigo

BENDIGO showed tremendous heart - no pun intended - to rally and beat Melbourne in the Melbourne Cup Eve showdown after coach Simon Pritchard went down, visibly distressed during the match. Nat Hurst was particularly special in what turned into two wins last round. Are the Spirit legit? Two wins over Melbourne - widely regarded as a championship contender - in the Boomers' backyard suggests it is time to take Bendigo seriously. The club though does have a (bad) habit of getting ahead of itself and being brought suddenly back to reality. Sydney could do just that here. Unless Bendigo is ready to show it has learnt from its past. A win would prove it.

Melbourne at Townsville

HAPPY to have coach Claudia Brassard back from Australian Under-19 duties, Townsville heavily has been relying on vets Suzy Batkovic and Micaela Cocks. (Where is Mia Murray when you need her?) In this first match-up of last season's grand finalists, the Fire only have the benefit of lying in wait for the Boomers. Cayla George, returning with the enemy after winning the championship with Townsville, either will have a blinder or a "can't-find-her". But Melbourne does come in as the more settled group, the Fire a wee bit in disarray. Can Brassard get this train back on the tracks? Because right now, it looks like Boom times for the visitors.

MADGEN MAGIC: Townsville need Tess Madgen to find her shooting confidence.

Nov 8

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