Eagles fight tough

Ellen Cox. (Ljubica Vrankovic)

Tara Murray

The Craigieburn Eagles have been the underdogs for much of the season and it won’t change now in the Big V women’s division 1 competition.

Injuries and their import arriving late, the Eagles found themselves in a battle to finish in the top half of the competition, which was split in two after 11 rounds.

The Eagles battled hard and managed to get to sixth and be in division 1.

Eagles coach Tobi Swinley said there was a sense of accomplishment to have made the division 1 competition.

“Everyone getting healthy at the same time helped,” he said. “There’s some sense of pride as we got down 11th and being sixth where we are now.”

Swinley said they still had a number of injuries in the team but players were playing through them and getting out on the court.

He said the side, which is a new one this year, has something special about them.

It’s almost a brand new team and they are clicking and bringing it together on the court,” he said. “It’s been really cool.”

The arrival of import Briana Gray has also helped the Eagles.

Gray is a highly decorated American import with recent experience playing in Australia in some of the highest competitions including the National Basketball League 1 and Big V state championship including with the Hume City Broncos.

Gray is averaging nearly 19 points per game for the Eagles, along with 13.25 rebounds and more than one block a game, all team highs.

Swinley said Gray brings some welcomed experience for them.

“She’s a good leader and rallies everyone,” she said. “She was available when I spoke with her and she liked our plan and set up.

“She liked our core values that the team and club have. She’s gone from strength to strength.

While Gray is the side’s leading scorer, the Eagles have a spread of other scorers.

Swinley said they had a number of options to get their points from and have a number of players with high IQ.

“We can get scorers from anywhere in the team,” he said. “It speaks value of the girls in the team that they’ve sacrificed a larger role at different teams to be part of our team.”

The Eagles have two weeks off, with a competition wide bye and then an actual bye.

Swinley said it came at a good time to give the playing group a break and reset for the rest of the season.

The Eagles sit in sixth spot out of seven teams for the next period of matches.

“We have six games left and we’re two wins behind fourth,” he said.

“We’ve got our backs to the wall as we have all year. We were in the same position at the start of the season and we seem to do well under pressure.”

The Eagles men’s side, which sits atop division 2, face the Mornington Breakers and the Maccabi Warriors, after the King’s Birthday weekend