The Bendigo Spirit became the ninth WNBL club following its approval for entry into the 2007/08 season. As the third Victorian based team, the Spirit is based in the provincial town of Bendigo, population 71,000 and enjoys strong community, local business and media support in the greater Bendigo area.
The town has a strong basketball reputation and local leagues and associations. Both the Bendigo Braves (Men) and Bendigo Lady Braves (Women) participate in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) competition which includes teams from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The Lady Braves have had phenomenal success at this level, winning the SEABL Championship four times and the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) National Championship in 2003.
Both the on and off court success of the Lady Braves sparked local community figures Wendy James, Jeremi Moule and the Braves Head Coach Bernie Harrower to start the process of seeking a WNBL license. As the driving forces behind Bendigo’s push for a WNBL team, James, Moule and Harrower worked tirelessly and as result, the Spirit were granted the right to participate in the WNBL in early 2007.
The Spirit played their first ever WNBL game at their home court, the Bendigo Schweppes Centre on Saturday October 6 against the Dandneong Rangers and claimed an historic 87-66 victory.
That night the Spirit was led by Harrower’s daughter, World Champion Opal Kristi, who scored a game high 21 points.