WNBL24 Round 6 Preview

December 6, 2023 | WNBL news

Written by Mark Alabakov



📆 Wednesday 6th December

⏰ 6:30pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena


🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


When you compete against well-prepared and well-coached teams, like those that Guy Molloy has lead in the WNBL, the LAST thing you want to give them is time. Time to prepare, to create gameplan clarity and teach it deeply, to get meaningful repetitions and sometimes even to evolve their strategy to do things the league hasn’t seen them do yet.


With a week off, having not played last round, Sydney has had that time that they’ve sorely needed to build chemistry and clarity together, and watch Adelaide play twice last round to scout them.


Adelaide performed solidly last round, lead by the evergreen Lauren Mansfield, who is an exceptional game manager and decision maker and isn’t nearly as talked about for how exceptional she can be, and the growing confidence of Borlase who genuinely looks like she’s been given the keys to the car – playing with a freedom not seen gifted to a player since Anneli Maley in her MVP year.


They pushed the Fire and made them work to win a game played at Adelaide’s tempo, then got into a messy arm-wrestle against the Spirit and nearly landed a result. ‘Finding a way’ is a trait of good teams and the Lightning are still looking to capture that for themselves. They still aren’t scoring enough. 2 games in the 60s last weekend, if replicated against the Flames, won’t be enough even if their defense goes to another level.


They are still searching for that extra scoring punch. Bourne showed against the Spirit that it could be her.


Brianna Turner has had a weekend of literal leather poisoning, with a combined 32 rebounds … but only 16 shot attempts total.


For context, VS Bendigo, Bourne attempted 16 and Borlase 21.


For Sydney, they’ll no doubt look more in-sync, but will need to keep a lid on emotional responses and foul discipline – both of which ultimately derailed what seemed like the beginnings of a winning result against the Spirit a round ago.


If they can play the present moment and keep George on the floor, she can be the dominant focal point the Flames need both to finish plays, but also make plays for others with her outstanding court vision and passing.


The inclusion of Tess Madgen into the Flames line up will also pay dividends, both in contribution, but even more importantly the way she’ll drive world-class competitiveness, accountability and the pursuit of winning without worrying who gets the credit. Madgen’s mindset is a throwback to the greats that played with heart and ‘competitive drive’ in the history of the league, the likes of Michele Timms and Robyn Maher. Her mere presence on court will enhance everything for the Flames.




A more organized and refreshed Flames team. The slow start from Sydney has been expected and explainable, but as the sample size increases of having closer to their full roster contingent available, the world-class teaching ability of Coach Guy Molloy will land more and more. We’ve seen their team performance have spikes in recent games, now the next domino to fall is putting those together for 4 quarters, and strings of games. With a week of only practices, the stage is set for that to begin against Adelaide.





📆 Thursday 7th December

⏰ 6:30pm AWST

📍 Bendat Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


The storied rivalry between these 2 teams in recent seasons continued last weekend with new characters in the story. And it was first blood, Lynx.


The Lynx had questions to answer, responding in second halves and closing out games, after a couple of recent bumps in the road. They did that, after shaking a 3rd quarter Boomers push, and will draw massive amounts of confidence and relief from solving that problem.


Very unlucky not to be Cygnett WNBL Player of the Round last round, McDonald showed another thread to her bow as the Lynx knocked off the ladder-leading Boomers – visually stepping up to WANT to guard Jordin Canada and then keeping her impact to a minimum for at least half of that contest.


The carryover into this game is continued confidence, especially if they can beat the Boomers a second time earlier in the round, and that a clear plan to limit McDonald and Atwell’s impacts by Melbourne, saw Goodchild and Potter step up to have match-winning performances in their own right.


The previously undefeated Boomers will be presented with their first opportunity to bounce back. To show what they can deliver as a mature group, able to make adjustments, have a tactful amnesia to last weekend’s result and start again with a new and improved plan that fits the physical style they’ve used to thrive in for 5 straight wins prior.


The margin was large, but the wounds were self-inflicted by the Boomers in the first contest – with the streaky 3pt shooting tested, and the willingness to shoot a number of deep 2pt shots leaving long rebounds that played right into the hands of the Perth style, as they routinely pounced on a ball already in momentum heading towards their basket and gave the Boomers defensive transition no real chance.


The positive for Melbourne is that they remembered who they were in the 3rd quarter, slowed their tempo, executed to get the ball a low or high point ‘paint touch’ that was the catalyst for a massive double digit comeback that swung the momentum back to the purple and gold. It allowed them to get better looks, more possession-hungry players around the contest (Keely Froling had an absurdly high amount of offensive rebounds, next level stuff) and then allow for more time and space to shoot open 3s after collapsing the Perth defense first, which they went on to make.


The finals atmosphere this game will have and the short turnaround for McDonald VS Canada II is the stuff fan’s dreams are made of.



A number of WNBL finals series-like adjustments by both coaches. We have 2 coaches with grand final experience and former WNBL coaches of the year accolades and they’ll both know that you can’t beat good teams the exact same way twice. What changes in strategy, subtle or vivid, do each team work spend time on and then roll out to try get an edge?



📆 Friday 8th December

⏰ 7:00pm AEDT

📍 National Convention Centre (Canberra)

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


This is the first of 2 opportunities Canberra will have to capitalize on a team that is getting the rubber to hit the road. The Flames will have spent valuable time building their identity and depth of experience together with a round off – and will likely be better for it, but the Capitals have to be in attack mode and test if the house is made of brick or made of straw in this early stage.


Many laud the eye-catching exploits of rising Australian Opals star, Jade Melbourne and how vital her contributions are to her team, but this is a game where her skill package, athleticism and Usain Bolt-like turn of pace are a major point of difference. The Flames don’t have a clear-cut athlete of similar height and speed as a direct match up for her, which likely means the Flames will be requiring the help of a second defender, or sometimes third in order to shore up the advantages that Melbourne creates. The more players required to commit to defending actions means more communication is needed, opens up potential miscommunications, then means more rotations by the defense to cover time and space created.


What this means is if Jade starts with and maintains having a score-first mentality within their offense, with a readiness to get other teammates involved the moment she feels or sees the presence of more defenders committed to halting her impact, there’s time and space available for kick out 3pt shots and shots after an extra pass whilst defenders are in rotation. This is significant, because Canberra has 4 of the top 15 athletes in the competition for made 3pt shots in Okoye, Munger, Fowler and Melbourne herself if she moves the ball on, spaces back outside the 3pt line and gets on the end of a great pass herself. The Caps are 2nd in the league for made 3s per game, on average, as a team.


The Flames won’t allow themselves to go down that easily and they’ve got one of the league’s few ‘incase of fire: break glass’ defenders who single handedly can and will take on defensive stopping jobs on elite perimeter players, in Lauren Nicholson. Even if that were to take Lauren away from her role as a primary scorer for Sydney, they are blessed with the inclusion of Madgen and her well-established on-court rapport and understanding with reigning MVP, Cayla George being a proven one in big matches together. Dose in a confident DiDi Richards slashing to the basket, an assertive Emma Clarke catching and shooting 3s the moment she sees daylight and the Flames could cover for all the scoring they need if they need to try to solve a dangerous Jade problem.



Which team does the most damage from downtown. 3pt shooting has been an achilles heel for the Flames in a number of games early this season and Canberra will challenge them to show growth in that area, or deal with the consequences of missed opportunities that can end in fast breaks. The Caps have been really good in that area, with multiple weapons that can catch fire from range, as mentioned – they’re 2nd in the league for made 3pt shots per game, on average. The challenge lies in can Jade Melbourne be a catalyst that creates 3pt looks, and can the Caps still produce to that high level or above, when the opponent knows it’s coming and can strategize to force them into doing other things instead?




📆 Saturday 9th December

⏰ 7:00pm AEDT

📍 State Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


Last weekend it was business as usual for the Flyers, as they kept their winning momentum and rolled over the Capitals, getting everyone on their roster in the game and resting key starters in the process.


They’ll enter this one refreshed, which is needed for a roster that has both a ton of winning experience, but the requisite amount of miles on their legs to achieve the things they have to date. Any time the Flyers are afforded time to ease player loading it helps in keeping the petrol tank full for when they need it.


We’ll see the likely return of Lauren Jackson, who had a big hand in driving the Flyers offense in her last start against Perth only one round ago. She’ll have to deal with fellow future WNBL hall of famer, Kelsey Griffin, and the physical Alicia Froling in order to have a similar impact against the Spirit.


Bendigo had an unconvincing win over Adelaide, saved by the offensive brilliance of Ally Wilson and clutch defensive ability of Kelsey Griffin. A win is a win in this league and they’ll be hoping to turn a 2 game win streak into the confidence and belief they’ll need to beat Southside at home.


Bendigo’s 2 wins have seen them monster teams in the paint, gaining about 40-45% of their score from within the keyway. The challenge they’ll have to overcome is that the Flyers are a different beast in terms of size and tenacity for possession. Russell, Jackson, Ernst are all 6’4 or above, Puoch would have a wingspan about that length and Jas Dickey is an energetic, multiple effort rebounder.


This provides a more ‘like-for-like’ competition around the hoop for shots and rebounds, and negates the point of difference the Spirit have leveraged in recent weeks.


Conversely, the Flyers still have to tidy up their ability to stop fast break teams. The way Ally Wilson relentlessly attacks the basket is going to be a handful for Southside to contain.




Bendigo’s big test. 2 straight wins against opponents outside the top 4, this is the Spirit’s chance to test if they’re capable of challenging not only a top 4 team, but one with the size that can take the edge off their possession play advantage.




📆 Sunday 10th December

⏰ 3:00pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


This could be a sneaky, ‘open up a bag of popcorn’, fun game to watch.


This is another top 4 test for the Lightning and they’ll be looking at the Lynx as being a team that lost 2 games straight only 10 days prior, and has shown to have their rhythm broken by zone defense recently.


Perth is box office right now with their style of play and the impact of early season MVP candidate, Aari McDonald, but also the spread of scoring they had in their win against Melbourne last week – knowing the best of Amy Atwell is still to come and a slew of dagger 3s is always looming.


They’ll need to get the ball out of Mansfield’s hands and put the clamps on Borlase to limit the Lightning’s impact, but they’ll also be confident that if they put 85-90+ points on the board, Adelaide has to find a way to score enough to keep up.


Teams globally that play the ‘pace and space’ style that the Lynx do, often find comfort and confidence in the fact that if they have the high end capacity to score over 100 points, most other teams can’t – even on their best day.


The Lightning need to score. A lot. But they’ll need to throw different defensive change ups at the Lynx to get them solving new and different problems and not allow them to settle into a fast paced rhythm. They’ll also need to learn from the Boomers and be mindful of their shot selection – any erratic, out of offensive context shots will end up in layups at the other end before you can blink.


Adelaide’s rotational players will need to come in and bring energy towards one sole focus – compete, compete, and compete for possession ! Keep the ball alive, win the ball back or lock it up in contests where Perth can’t cleanly get it and run.



A high octane, up-and-down, game. There’ll be times watching this one that you’ll think you’re watching a tennis match. Both teams will want to play at pace and with space, in transition and in the half court.


Perth lives in that world. Adelaide’s best patches of play have been when they’ve hung their hat on being in attack mode the moment possession changes hands. Might have to watch this one back on 0.5 speed to see what’s actually happening!


Perth is unashamedly going to race Adelaide to 100 points. Can they keep up?




📆 Sunday 10th December

⏰ 5:30pm AEDT

📍 National Convention Centre (Canberra)

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


It’s hard to put out the Fire right now! Townsville are as steady as any team in the competition currently and continually show how robust their roster construction and strategy is as they can win games of skill, physicality, or a combination of both. Whether it’s pretty basketball or a messy grind, they have both solutions and multiple problem solvers to help them get over the line. Pushed by the Lightning last round, we saw them shoot an uncharacteristic 17% from the 3pt line and 35% from the field, where they average 39% and 44% respectively … yet they STILL had the answers to get the win.


By no means are Townsville complacent, but in any sport you’re most vulnerable when you think you can’t lose. The Caps won’t be able to take a ‘hope to win’ mindset into this clash – they’ll need to be aggressively ‘playing to win’ each possession on its merits and testing every bit of comfort the Fire have in their gameplan and the way they’ve been succeeding at every turn.


The other opportunity for the Caps is the inevitable disruption bringing a new, expected-to-be key player into a team’s lineup for the first time. There’s an initial acclimation time needed and the team has a heightened awareness and focus on helping the new player induct themselves into the team’s style and gameplan. If the Fire inevitably shift focus, the Caps can pounce and turn those moments into a string of runs that can put them in a winning position.


But it can only happen if there’s no let up. No foot off the pedal. Intelligent approaches, backed by multiple efforts of legendary UC Caps Coach Carrie Graf’s famed ‘Relentless Persistence’. Over and over, for 4 quarters.



The debut of new Fire import, Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B.


A long-awaited reveal from the Fire on who would be replacing Tianna Hawkins, sees them sign the 8 year WNBA veteran with experience playing in Turkey and Russia also, known for her rebounding, shot blocking and work rate.


They’ll ease her in to the rotation and need to be in constant communication with her to help get her up to speed with their strategy, but anything she does will be a net gain for Townsville. The elite rebounding and shot blocking she’s demonstrated worldwide are instantly transferable impactful traits within any league.




Stay updated with weekly WNBL news and features – subscribe now for more insights delivered to your inbox.