The beautiful chaos of picking a championship favourite

January 17, 2024 | WNBL news

Written by Darren Barker, Features Writer

There I sat, moments during these past few weeks and thought to myself, “hmm, who is the actual championship favourite right now?”


A pretty valid question as we head into Round 12 of 15.


A big part of that question was that to me, there have been many different answers during the course of the season so far. There have been lots of hits, lots of misses and I guess most importantly, lots of favourites. It’s like when kids fight for your attention and you’re not sure how to balance that love.


Let’s talk through it.


A red hot start


3-0 for the new look Perth Lynx straight out of the gate. Alright this team looks great. Aari McDonald flying around the court, putting her name up for an early MVP conversation. Anneli Maley doing what she does best but in the red and black this time, the Lynx had a great groove early on.


Aari McDonald gets injured.


From there, let’s use the classic term to describe a season and call it a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Perth.


Earlier in the season they got done by 20+ points by Townsville, only to respond with a 20 point win over Melbourne, only to respond in just a few days after to a 20 point loss this time again to Melbourne.


It’s been a bit of a rocky road for Perth but their 9-7 record is strong and if they can get Aari McDonald back to where she was I have no doubt my mind will be looking at them as legit title contenders.


You had my attention, Melbourne


Speaking of getting going from the jump, this Melbourne Boomers team had me thinking very highly of them. It was largely around the play of Jordin Canada because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love someone of her calibre coming in and leaving a mark on this league immediately.


You guessed it, Canada gets injured.


Notice a theme yet? Injuries matter.


Once Canada went down the Boomers took some time to adjust, an example being when they lost to the Flames 86-58.


I still really like the balance of their roster in theory. Naz Hillmon controlling the paint, Canada being a legit MVP candidate, Blicavs and Froling being super steady, there’s a lot there.


All this, they’re second on the ladder at 10-6 and we haven’t even seen Kristy Wallace yet. Everyone knows what a player she is and come finals time, I wouldn’t want to be facing her.


The Boomers also just beat the #1 ranked Townsville Fire 94-58 which I won’t lie, really caught me off guard. Make of that what you will.


Who are the Southside Flyers this season?


This is something I’ve tried to get a read on. How good are they? Can they put it together at the right time and make a championship run?


The good looks very good but the bad has shown its face at times including the loss to the Capitals earlier this month which not many probably predicted.


Look, every team is going to be up and down so maybe Southside deserve more credit then I am giving them. 8-6, third on the ladder, that sounds like quite a strong place to be right?


To me it’s almost like we are just waiting to see the best version of them. Maybe that’s coming, it’s all about timing your run after all.


Townsville at the top of the table


The top of the table and right now, the top of my answer board for this championship favourites question.


I think they have to be favourites right at this moment in time.


The Fire feel the most steady out of everyone. Starting 5-1 on the season, currently at 12-4 even without Alice Kunek in the lineup, that fills me with confidence.


It hasn’t been a totally smooth ride though. As mentioned the injury to Kunek but they are developing a bit of a speed bump called the Melbourne Boomers. Losing to them earlier in the season by 20+ and last game doing the exact same, dropping that one by a large 36 points which is obviously a poor result.


Still, I have faith in them to make a proper push. Sami Whitcomb has been a joy, an improved Zitina Aokuso, Steph Reid causing havoc, Woods, Ruef – the Fire have a lot of weapons, something that I always go back to.


An even playing field


Townsville Fire: 12-4

Melbourne Boomers: 10-6

Southside Flyers: 8-6

Perth Lynx: 9-7

Sydney Flames: 8-8

Bendigo Spirit: 6-8

Canberra Capitals: 4-10

Adelaide Lightning: 4-12


They are the current standings and they are my current thoughts.


Honestly, Sydney could be right there as well at the end and deserve an individual shout out. 8-8 isn’t too far behind and they’ve shown they can beat some top tier talent themselves.


Can we please see Shaneice Swain soon also?


Any of those top 5 teams could find some serious form and put their hand up as a favourite and it wouldn’t shock me.


It’s a close race, an unpredictable race but that’s what makes it fun.



Written by Darren Barker / January 17, 2024



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