South East Melbourne after their loss to Melbourne United. (Image: @SEMelbPhoenix/X)

Despite the magnitude of injuries South East Melbourne has faced in recent weeks, the absence of several players has allowed the team’s younger players to showcase themselves.

Since injuries started to mount, head coach Mike Kelly has thrown the Phoenix’s young players into the deep end and they have taken the opportunity with both hands.

In recent games, development players Kody Stattmann, Luke Rosendale, and Anzac Rissetto have seen an increase in minutes and have shown small glimpses during their time on court.

“There’s been more opportunities to teach with some of the young guys one on one, but trainings haven’t really changed other than less contact and less players there,” Kelly said.

“I haven’t watched Anzac’s [Anzac Risetto] minutes but he was really good tonight. Luke Rosendale makes a mistake, sits down and comes back and plays well throughout the fourth quarter. Owen Foxwell, I can put in that same boat.

“There’s great learning opportunities for all of the guys but particularly the young guys especially.”

It always going to be tough heading into the Throwdown against Melbourne United, especially after the news that captain Mitch Creek was going to miss with a heel injury, and to South East Melbourne’s credit it battled valiantly when it looked all gloom at three-quarter time.

Mike Kelly was full of praise for his team’s effort.

“They beat up on us pretty good there for a little while and then our guys kept fighting. I think we fought through everything,” Kelly said.

“They pushed us out early and the guys stayed with it and gave effort the whole time. I was happy with the effort, not happy with the result.”

The Phoenix and their fans had high expectations in the offseason that this team would be among those challenging for a spot in the finals, but the team has fallen away in the last month, sinking to the bottom of the ladder.

Despite all the challenges South East Melbourne has faced this season, forward Rhys Vague described how the team is trying to remain upbeat.

“As upsetting as it is losing a lot of games, the group loves each other [and] we get around each other a lot which is really rare, especially in teams that I’ve been a part of in the past,” Vague said.

“This group just genuinely loves each other’s company and you can see that on the court. When guys are falling over we’re picking each other up even if we’re down 20 or 30 points.

“The level’s been high, we’ve just been sharing that disappointment of the losses, but we’re not going against each other.”

South East Melbourne Phoenix will host the Tasmania JackJumpers at John Cain Arena next Saturday at 5:30pm AEDT.  

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