Richmond Tigers/Bendigo Spirit player Tessa Lavey (Picture: AFL/WNBL, Design by Will Cuckson)

Coming off a finals series with the Richmond Tigers in the AFL Women’s competition, cross-coding star Tessa Lavey went straight into a pre-season with the Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL.

Having been apart of the Tigers’ first ever finals campaign in the AFLW, Tessa Lavey is able to reflect on what that historic finals run meant for the team and how it has fuelled a deeper hunger to better their performance in season eight.

She spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about season seven for Richmond as well as how she prepared to cross back to Bendigo for the WNBL season.

“The feeling was of a lot of pride [at the end of the season],” Lavey said.

“We grew a lot in that amount of time and we added some really critical pieces to the core group so it was a very exciting time for the club but it also made us really hungry for more.

“We are not satisfied with just making finals, with the group [we have], we have the potential to want to make finals and win finals so we are looking forward to the season coming up and what we can achieve in that area.”

The first 2022 AFLW season (season six) saw Lavey juggle both codes with the WNBL running concurrently early last year. When the next AFLW season was moved from early 2023 to late 2022, Lavey was one of the beneficiaries due to her commitments to both clubs.

“It was actually quite nice to not have [the seasons] directly overlapping to be honest, it was a really stressful year last year trying to make that all work but we did it,” she explained.

“I can’t thank Richmond and Bendigo enough for that support but this season it was quite easy.

“I focused on one at a time and once Richmond were sort of done, I got up to Bendigo as often as I could during their pre-season and joined in just so I could be already around the team and understand what we are all about [and] what we wanted to achieve this year.

“It was quite nice to be able to do that and then once footy finished I was able to just come in and switch off from that and just focus on a new set of teammates and a new game.

“I think because I’ve done it for so long it’s a bit of second nature for me, I really enjoy playing so I couldn’t sort of wait to get back out there on the court with the group that we have at the Spirit.”

The fact that Richmond made finals and played two weeks longer than the lower finishing sides could have posed a problem for the cross-coder. Having made her season debut four rounds in, Lavey explained it was never an issue given the communication she has with the two clubs.

“We’ve been pretty open and honest in our communication with both clubs and the possibilities of making finals or not making finals so nothing really changed,” Lavey shared.

“The Bendigo Spirit were really great in their support and [in] letting my achieve what I wanted to with footy and they knew that once that finished I was coming across to Bendigo and that I’d be fully invested.”

The season has been a largely successful one for the Spirit, currently in third on the ladder and being in contention for finals. Lavey explained where further improvement will come for her team and what they have done well.

“I think we are doing well with our defence and [playing] team roles and just focusing on those, I think that’s the biggest thing that we’ve done well at these last few games, just being on board with the team plan,” she said.

“The biggest thing we need to work on is our offence execution, [we need to get the ball] just down the stretch, but it’s the four quarters that we need that for and I think that’s the next step to be really successful in finals is getting forty minutes of quality basketball.”

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The last month has yielded mixed results for the Spirit with three consecutive losses coming against the Southside Flyers, Melbourne Boomers and the UC Capitals. Pleasingly for Lavey and Bendigo, they turned this form around, winning their last three games over the Adelaide Lightning, while turning the tables on the Capitals and Boomers.

Lavey explained what the consecutive wins meant for the team who are looking to build momentum ahead of WNBL finals.

“It’s [a] really good [feeling] within the group, I think we sort of needed those losses to be able to have a really good look at ourselves and see what part of our game we need to get better at and that’s what we did,” she explained.

“We took a couple of days to review and review ourselves and then our team game as well and I think that was important. We’ve gathered that momentum back and we are playing some really good defence and playing the way that we want to play which is the Bendigo Spirit style, it’s exciting to watch and it’s exciting to play.”

One of the players who is well and truly in contention for the Suzy Batkovic WNBL MVP award come season’s end is her teammate Anneli Maley. Looking to go back to back should she win the award again, Lavey talks about her chances come awards night.

“I think it’s possible [that she wins again],” Lavey said.

“Maley’s had a great season and we will see what happens, I know Cayla George is having a great season, Steph Talbot there for a few games was having some great games [too].

“There’s [also] quality players like Tiff Mitchell, when she’s back out on the court she’s dangerous so there’s quality players out there left, right and centre.

“Maley holds her own every week and she always tries to do what’s best for the team so we love playing with her and hopefully she gets another MVP title.”

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