WNBL24 Round 10 Preview

January 2, 2024 | WNBL news

Written by Mark Alabakov



📆 Wednesday 3 Jan 2024

⏰ 6:00 pm AEDT

📍 Melbourne Sports Centres – Parkville

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

It’s the start of a new year, which can only mean one thing – enter the importance of season series splits between teams.

Sitting 4th and 3rd respectively, both Melbourne and Southside have long held spots in the top 4, but Sydney is breathing down their necks having tied them on 7 wins last round.

This result impacts the season series, with Melbourne 1-0 up over Southside so far, but having played an extra game. Southside needs this result, given they have a game in hand on the Boomers, to separate themselves from the pack of 7 win teams.

Southside demolished Adelaide last week, largely in part to the defensive job done to keep Borlase and Mansfield to 8 total points on 3/16 shooting. They’ll need to do similarly against the returning Jordin Canada and Sara Blicavs on the perimeter.

Melbourne was a missed Hillmon layup away from perhaps a different result last round, and will need to take on the Flyers with confidence and belief and every player being an offensive threat. Last week the Boomers had 5x double digit scorers, turned defense into offense with 12 points off turnovers and 17 second chance points.

The hurdle they have to overcome is to not leak so many points in the paint. The Spirit scored 44 in the paint last week and dealing with Russell and Jackson post ups, Cole and Rocco dribble penetration and multiple effort rebounding by Dickey will be damaging if they aren’t able to shore that area up.

The Flyers will be tested with their pick and roll defense, with each team in the league routinely testing the ability of Jackson, Russell and Ernst to contain quicker guards, often resulting in a Flyers teammate needing to leave their player to help, opening up kickout advantages and scrambles to rebound. Melbourne is the best offensive rebounding team in the league and this could spell a long night for Southside if Melbourne can out execute and then outwork them on that end.


An X-Factor player rising to the occasion. Prime candidates to have a big match blinder – Puoch with stampeding drives, Dickey with possession play and hustle points, Reed with 3pt shooting and Conti’s aggressive mindset offensively, coupled with locking down Maddi Rocci.





📆 Wednesday 3 Jan 2024

⏰  7:30pm AEST

📍 Townsville Entertainment Centre


🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Season series decided in the Fire’s favour, this tilts Perth’s intention to finding ways to sneak in wins in the absence of McDonald.

The Lynx hung with the Fire for 2.5 quarters, but the poise, game management and decision making void left by McDonald was too much to overcome against the benchmark team in the competition.

That said, it was game 1 in re-adjusting and re-jigging. Perth will be better prepared in game 2 to avoid the 3 assist second half that came on the back of the ball sticking in player’s hands for too long to create advantages or identify the ones created.

Defensively, they have the change ups to throw Townsville out of rhythm, but they’ll have to roll those out with an alertness, reaction time and then diligence to move and rotate as the ball moves.

To the contrary, the Fire are a 4 quarter team of creating time and space advantages, the maintaining them till and open shot emerges, rinse and repeat with 3 quality playmakers who each can finish, in Whitcomb, Reid and Woods.

The moment a team’s defense has one part of their job done late or forgotten about – it ends in a Fire basket.

Townsville will need to expect strategic changes and have clarity on plans of attack, but then trust the robustness of their gameplan to be difficult to stifle over 4 quarters, and wear the Lynx down.


Townsville cranking up their pressure on the basketball in the absence of a true Perth point guard currently, and the Lynx playing Whitcomb and Woods tighter, challenging Reid to have to be a 20+ point scorer, instead of facilitator.





📆 Friday 5 Jan 2024

⏰ 7:00 pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

By ladder position, this is 5th VS 7th, but by current form this is a game that Sydney will enter with more confidence.

The middle third of any season is often the hardest grind to get through as a team, with Adelaide’s finals aspirations all but over and Sydney’s only emerging, the motivation and will to win for both teams will, by human nature, be different.

It’s cliche to say the Lightning are ‘playing for pride’ amongst other superlatives, but it’s about Adelaide seeing who they can win with moving forward. In adversity and challenge, who can they trust and believe to continue to play hard, smart and together – and do that when it gets hard.

Adelaide can be a finals gate-keeper. A large portion of their remaining games are against finals aspirational/finals teetering teams like Sydney, Melbourne, Southside and even Perth.

Their ‘finals’ can start now and be a terrific learning and growth opportunity for their roster, or they can allow their season’s resolve to fall away if things aren’t going 100% perfectly to plan in any of their remaining games.

Sydney on the other hand have begun to find longer stretches of rhythm and confidence. Big names aside, Clarke has been effective, Richards had her best game for the season and Bradley is putting together a body of work of reliability.

They have everything still to play for – they just need to keep piling up the Ws.


Lauren Nicholson, sensing the Flames season’s opportunity, going to the next level of killer instinct and refusing to be denied.




📆 Saturday 6 Jan 2024

⏰ 7:00 pm AEDT

📍 State Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

The Flyers have beaten the Caps by an average of 21 points in their first 2 encounters this season and have some areas to shore up to keep the Flyers to a beatable scoreline – in particular, a solution to the impact of Mercedes Russell  and Lauren Jackson in the post, and their ability to look after the ball/defensive transition which has seen the Flyers accumulate an average of 21.5 points off turnovers per game against the Caps.

The threat Canberra does pose is that, with the volume of 3pt shots they’re taking, if they have a hot shooting night, they can hang around good teams and landed back to back wins by the stars aligning and them hitting 3-4 more 3s at 10-15% more accuracy than their average.

The Flyers can’t get complacent and will need to defend the 3pt line diligently, knowing they have multiple different options to deal with the threat of dribble penetration that Melbourne presents.

Coach Cheryl Chambers will utilize tools such as Rocci as a direct match up, Puoch as a taller and longer athlete match up to disrupt passing angles and shot trajectories, or will sit the team in a zone defense to park the bus in the paint will all the Flyers tall timber to encourage the Caps to play around the perimeter and keep them out of rotations.


The impact of Mercedes Russell and Lauren Jackson’s post presences and the offense they create for themselves, or in cleaning up missed shots with offensive rebounds being too much to overcome for the Caps.




📆 Sunday 7 Jan 2024

⏰ 1:30 pm AEDT

📍 Qudos Bank Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Big time finals implications in this one. This will have Grand Final level tension, emotion and competitiveness from both teams.

The Flames and Boomers are deadlocked at 7-5 and sit 4th and 5th on the WNBL ladder, with the Flames taking game 1 of the season series in a bulldozing 28 point win on the back of a white-hot 18/33 from the 3pt line, shooting at a blistering 54.5% in that contest.

Expect to see a vastly different affair in this return bout, the likely ‘coming back to earth’ of Sydney’s 3pt shooting and the inclusion of Canada for the Boomers, who was absent in game 1, means this one is likely to be an arm wrestle for 4 quarters.

The Flames confidence is building after 3 straight wins, the Boomers are 1-4 in their past 5 games but will be closer to full strength and the line up that they began the season 5-0 with.

Melbourne’s multiple offensive rebounders and Sydney’s lack of direct match up for Canada poses issues for them, whilst the fearlessness and role clarity emerging for the Flames will give them a chance to wear down the Boomers, possession by possession, and position them to win the game slowly.


How Nicholson handles a potential match up in Sara Blicavs with her size, length, physicality and agility VS how Cayla George handles a potential series of match ups by committee, which includes the physicality of Hillmon and the length and quickness of Froling.




📆 Sunday 7 Jan 2024

⏰ 3:30 pm AEDT

📍 Geelong Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Desperate teams are both vulnerable AND dangerous. The Spirit built their team to make a push for finals and are playing every game on a knife’s edge of keeping that hope alive. The vulnerability lies in how each player, and the team, handles the pressure and heaviness of needing to make every post a winner in their remaining games of the season. The dangerousness lies in the drive and momentum that can be created by the will to win that can emerge when your back is against the wall – last week’s sheer effort and brute force win over the Boomers is an example of that.

The Spirit match up well against the Fire – with size and rebounding prowess to compete with Aokuso, Ruef and Zahui B in Davis, Griffin and Froling, as well as dynamic perimeter defenders like Ally Wilson and Abbey Wehrung and the veteran smarts of Kelly Wilson to bother Reid, Whitcomb and Woods.

We saw the Fire’s poise separate them from the Lynx in winning time, but the Spirit have Kelly Wilson and Griffin who have demonstrated the same thing for a string of championship seasons together.


Momentum edges to be gained by the team that keeps their feet, keeps competing and plays the game in the present moment routinely.




📆 Sunday 7 Jan 2024

⏰ 3:00 pm AWST

📍 Bendat Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Mentioned earlier, the motivation for the Lynx in their current situation is to keep sneaking in as many McDonald-less wins as they can till she’s fit and healthy to return to the lineup. Easier said than done.

No games are easy and teams will look at an impacted Perth lineup as an opportunity to knock off a top 4 team.

Perth are still very talented and high powered offensively – Atwell and Maley can score enough to be match winners on their own, a locked-in Potter can be a handful for teams and Goodchild will be in her 3rd game as the team’s stand-in point guard and will likely find a rhythm and balance of organizing and being a threat herself.

Adelaide haven’t been able to get all their scorers firing at once in a game, but Mansfield, Borlase and Willoughby have all shown an ability to get 25 points on the board, the aggressive best of Bourne has been a revelation and Turner has slowly bumped up her scoring production also.

Adelaide has hung around against good teams by outrunning them in transition and getting reaction-time advantages when an error occurs. The Fire had 22 points off turnovers against the Lynx and this is something Adelaide can draw comparison from.

Perth has been taken out of rhythm with defensive change ups by opponents at times this season. The Lightning will need to leverage that, in the absence of a true point guard and their problem solving lens, and keep Perth out of sync by changing tact intelligently, in-game. Defense has to be the Lightning’s main focus if they’re to trouble Perth.

Adelaide averages 70 points per game. Perth averages 86 and in the absence of McDonald, scored 98 against Canberra and in a game against Townsville, when the well dried up completely and they lacked organization in the second half, they scored 64 – which still would have put them in the thick of the contest against the Lightning’s ‘average’ scoring output performance.


Perth to turn all their attention to offense and ‘outscore’ the Lightning.



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