Chesters backs calls to keep Bernie

Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters MP, has joined Labor colleague, Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan, in throwing her support behind Bendigo Spirit coach Bernie Harrower.

"Bernie has a passion and commitment to the game that is hard to match. He is not only a great coach of the Bendigo Spirit but is also a strong advocate for women’s elite and professional sport,” said Ms Chesters.

Bernie Harrower has recently spoken publicly about the ABC’s decision to end its 35-year broadcast of WNBL matches and his belief it will drive out key sponsors and strip the team of half of its players.

At the time Basketball Australia said that the Federal Government cuts to ABC funding meant the 2014/15 Wattle Valley WNBL season would be the last shown on ABC TV live around Australia.

"I agree with Bernie Harrower’s comments that we could lose half our team. The women don't get paid as well as their male counterparts. Bernie said one of the great things that happened over the last five years is that many of our players were coming back from overseas because we have a premier league. If we lose the TV rights, it will make it very difficult to keep them on board.

“I believe the ABC’s decision will have a massive impact on women’s elite sport in this country.

"I agree with Jacinta Allan, I hope Bernie continues to be the coach. He is hard-working, committed and a mentor for so many. He is a true local hero.

"Without Bernie, I am worried about the future of the Bendigo Spirit.

"I hope the board is not making a political decision. It could cost Bendigo and our Bendigo Spirit,” said Ms Chesters.