ROUND 1 PREVIEW
Jayco Dandenong Rangers v Deakin Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Stadium Thursday, 7.30pm (local time)
In unfamiliar territory compared to previous years, Dandenong have a different looking roster with only Sara and Steph Blicavs as well as Amelia Todhunter returning from 2016/17. Tessa Lavey and Carley Mijovic have strong connections with Sara Blicavs from their days at the AIS though so there should not be too many synchronicity concerns heading into the first game of the year.
Melbourne have loaded up with talent in the off-season, led by Liz Cambage while captain Jenna O’Hea, Louella Tomlinson, Courtney Duever and Kalani Purcell will all bulk up their front court.
That is where they will see a decisive advantage although Dandenong’s Kayla Pedersen has impressed in the pre-season and possesses the speed and size to match it with Cambage. It will be a great contest between those two stars under the rim but Pedersen will need help from the likes of Tayla Roberts to match the Boomers’ extended forward line.
Where the Rangers could hurt the visitors is through their point guard stocks with Lavey and Todhunter joined by Spanish Olympic medalist Laia Palau. If they can gel with the team quickly, their passing could slice right through the Boomers’ defences in what is sure to be an emotionally charged contest to start 2017/18.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681904/
MAC Adelaide Lightning v Brydens Sydney Uni Flames at Titanium Security Arena Friday, 7.00pm (local time)
The defending Champions head to Adelaide for their first game of the new season and the Flames have not messed with a winning formula, only bringing in Katie Ebzery to replace Leilani Mitchell at the point guard position.
Ebzery should expect a lot of court time with the news that Tahlia Tupaea may miss the entire 2017/18 campaign and while she is an Olympian and can handle the pressure, Adelaide will be looking to attack Ebzery all night and wear her down.
This is a battle between top and bottom on the ladder from last season but the Lightning have a roster to put them in contention after signing 2014/15 league MVP Abby Bishop to join Laura Hodges and import Ruth Hamblin in an imposing front court.
They will face up against 2016/17 All-Star Asia Taylor and 201cm Jennifer Hamson who were a strong pairing for Sydney Uni and last year’s experience is sure to serve them well coming into this season.
The Flames have more than their share of offensive firepower through Alex Wilson, Belinda Snell and Sarah Graham who can penetrate as well as drain the three-point shot at a consistent clip.
However, the Lightning’s acquisitions of Lauren Nicholson, Nicole Seekamp and Natalie Novosel should make them one of the best defensive teams around the perimeter and if they shut down those lights-out shooters, Adelaide could bring in the new season with a bang.
Tickets at the door.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681902/
University of Canberra Capitals v Bendigo Bank Spirit at National Convention Centre Friday, 7.30pm (local time)
Both clubs narrowly missed out on playoffs last season but look to have put together rosters capable of breaking into the top four this year and the opening game between the Caps and Spirit could give an indication as to which team is ready to make the jump.
The Caps have a healthy mix of youngsters and experienced players with Rachel Jarry, import Mistie Bass and seven-time WNBL Champion Natalie Hurst to lead the team while Ezi Magbegor is an early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
Bendigo only have four changes from last season but Rachel Banham is a flat-out scorer who averaged 29 points per game in her final college year and Betnijah Laney is a great pick-up with her athleticism and ability to finish at the rim a great complement to Kelsey Griffin.
Speaking of Griffin, she is coming off an MVP performance at the FIBA Asia Cup in her first outing with the Opals and could be ready for an MVP season in the WNBL. She will create headaches for the Caps this weekend but the home side have their own offensive weapon in Jordan Hooper who finished third in the league for scoring with 18.5 points per game when she played for SEQ two seasons ago.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681903/
Deakin Melbourne Boomers v JCU Townsville Fire at State Basketball Centre Saturday, 3.00pm (local time)
Backing up from their season opener on Thursday night, Melbourne return home to take on the Fire in the first WNBL game broadcast on Fox Sports Australia (channel 503).
While the Boomers’ have stacked their front court, Townsville have been able to match them with Olympian Cayla George reuniting with five-time MVP Suzy Batkovic after a season away while youngsters Zitina Aokuso and Darcee Garbin are handy complements.
Garbin recently led the Australian Emerging Opals to a gold medal at the World University Games, easily averaging a double-double and with the Boomers also playing a second game of a double-header, the visitors could catch them fatigued.
With Sydney Wiese only just completing her WNBA season with the LA Sparks, the Fire will be hampered for the opening round but their other import, Laurin Mincy, has the length to bother opposition guards as well as a strong offensive game.
Townsville will be wary of a fired-up Boomers squad though who will be keen to perform in front of a big home crowd as well as showcase themselves on national television.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681905/
University of Canberra Capitals v MAC Adelaide Lightning at National Convention Centre Sunday, 3.00pm (local time)
A rarity in the WNBL, the Caps will play a home double-header this weekend while the Lightning will head up to the nation’s capital after hosting their own game on Friday night.
Despite their poor record in 2016/17, all three of the Lightning’s victories came on the road which should give them confidence this year but it will be up to their second unit to maintain the pace on court in double-headers such as these.
An injury to Aimie Clydesdale will hurt their pace in the opening rounds but as stated above, they have enough talent to compensate for her absence while Colleen Planeta will ensure the scoreboard keeps ticking over.
The Caps will be looking to a player like Lauren Scherf, who came across from Dandenong this season, as she will have a big task going up against the likes of Bishop but Hamblin was also an imposing figure for the Lynx last year and will ensure the home team gets nothing easy in the paint.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681907/
Perth Lynx v Brydens Sydney Uni Flames at Bendat Basketball Centre Sunday, 1.00pm (local time)
Perth have to wait until Sunday to be the last team to hit the court in 2017/18 but they will be hosting a Flames side playing their second game on the road in three days.
All the hype surrounding the Lynx this season has been about the addition of guard Courtney Williams. Joining Sami Whitcomb, there is already talk that they may be the most damaging back court to ever grace the WNBL which sets up an enthralling Round 1 clash against Ebzery.
Do not sleep on the rest of the Lynx team though, with Kayla Standish a strong addition to their front court after starring alongside Batkovic at Townsville while Alice Kunek and Olivia Thompson have trekked across from the Boomers.
They will look to Amanda Dowe to hold down the defensive end alongside Natalie Burton but a potential season-ending injury to Toni Farnworth has thrown a spanner in the works in the lead-up to Round 1.
Her absence could open the door for Sydney Uni’s sharpshooters with someone like Wilson able to take full advantage.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/681906/
Contacts for all clubs can be found via the Media Guide: http://wnbl.basketball/assets/14766_baskaus_wnbl-media-guide_2017-18_final_high-res.pdf