They may be two-time defending champions but UC Capitals have embraced the underdog tag ahead of their crunch 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL clash on Sunday, claiming opponents Jayco Southside Flyers are the “team to beat”.
The stage is set for a WNBL blockbuster when the top of the table Flyers line up against the Capitals in Townsville on Sunday in a regular season finale that will shape the make-up of next week’s finals.
With both teams vying for a top two finish – and a finals double chance – the Flyers have received a shot in the arm after two-time Olympian Rachel Jarry was cleared to return from a knee injury suffered on December 2. However, it is yet to be seen if Flyers’ captain Jenna O’Hea will feature against the Capitals after leaving the court late on Friday night against Brydens Sydney Uni Flames with a knee injury.
The Flyers (10-2 record) have been the title favourites since assembling a star-studded side that includes an all-Opals starting five featuring arguably the world’s best player, Liz Cambage. They have lived up to the hype.
The Flyers have hovered around the top of the WNBL ladder throughout the season and are currently on a six-game winning run.
Yet remarkably they can miss out on the top two if they are defeated on Sunday with the Capitals and Deakin Melbourne Boomers (both 9-3 records) breathing down their necks.
Capitals’ Opals star Marianna Tolo said while the stakes were high for her side, she believed all the pressure would be on the Flyers on Sunday.
“We love being a bit of an underdog and not going in as favourites because the pressure is off – we can just play the way we want to play,” Tolo said of the Flyers.
“Southside are the team to beat. They have got a target on their back and everyone gets extra motivation to play them.
“It was a positive for us in a way once they (Flyers) assembled that good team because even though we were the reigning champs we weren’t the favourites – it is a good position to be in.
“The Flyers definitely have a good list of stars and will want to finish the season strongly.
“For them it will be a matter of whether they can put it all together.”
Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers said her team had never let the early title favouritism go to their heads.
“We have a theory that it is what it is, if it (title favouritism) is good or bad it is out there,” she said.
“We are just concentrating on how we play as a team. We are choosing to be about ourselves and know we have quality opponents.”
Chambers believed the Capitals were a timely yardstick ahead of the finals.
“Everything is on the line. Both teams will be wanting to win it to make sure they finish in the top two – it should be a cracker,” she said of Sunday’s clash.
“The Capitals have won it two years in a row and are wanting to make it three – this game will show us exactly where we are at (ahead of the finals).
“At no stage at all have we underrated them (Capitals). In my mind they have been title contenders from the start.”
Laine Clark is a freelance contributor to WNBL.basketball.
UC Capitals v Jayco Southside Flyers
Sunday 13 December 2020
At Townsville Stadium
2.00pm AEST / 3.00pm AEDT
LIVE on Fox Sports Ch 507, Kayo and the ABC primary channel plus ABC iview