WNBL24 Round 9 Preview

December 26, 2023 | WNBL news

Written by Mark Alabakov



📆 Wednesday 27th December

⏰ 6:30 pm AWST

📍 Bendat Basketball Centre


🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


Canberra’s stringing together of 2 wins is huge for their program and team morale, having won 2 of their past 27 games previous.

Taking nothing away, the context is that the wins have come against Melbourne without 40% of their starting lineup – a WNBA star in Canada and Australian Opal in Wallace, and against the 7th placed Lightning, without Australian Opal Steph Talbot.

In both games they made 11x 3 point shots shooting at 38% and 44% respectively. In an 8 game sample size prior, they averaged 8 made 3s at 30%. Were the past 2 games outlier performances, or have the Caps made a stunning breakthrough ? This game will give us an indication.

Jade Melbourne is certainly on fire right now as the most in-form player in the league, with a combined 61 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in Canberra’s last 2 games.

The Caps haven’t beaten a full strength team, let alone one in the top 4 yet. Perth presents an apt challenge. Perth are the number 1 scoring team in the league, averaging 87 points per game and the number 1 assist to turnover team in the league, meaning they look after the ball and have more profitable use of it that leads to scores. Canberra’s defense will be the focus for them as they have to find a way to keep Perth to a scoreline closer to their own average of 76 per game.

The Lynx sit in 2nd, but won’t be able to get ahead of themselves and will need to give Canberra the proper respect. The Caps compete with 3s and effort-based metrics – they’re 0.5 offensive rebounds per game behind Perth and sit on the cusp of the upper end of the league in that stats and fast break points. Both of which Perth can’t take for granted.

They’ll need to have a plan to curb Melbourne’s influence as THE catalyst for everything the Caps do. Stemming her impact with a plan to contain her and avoid over-help, drive and kick 3s to spaced shooters and they can stall the stellar 3pt shooting streak the Caps are on and keep them to a beatable score.

LOOK OUT FOR: Maley and Potter to carry the Lynx with their defense, rebounding and timely easy scores and keep a Caps team full of belief, at bay.




📆 Friday 29th December

⏰ 5:00 pm AEDT

📍 Qudos Bank Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Sydney has been up and down this season, with the gap between the floor and ceiling of their performances indicative of a brand-new team and new coach, but also the spanner in the works a couple of injuries can be and how they can throw even the most promising teams off balance.

Their response to their worst games this season in round 7, to come out and demolish the Boomers last round where they shot an outlier 54.5% from the 3, then out-wrestle the Spirit for the season series between the teams.

Massive ticks are Cayla George looking back to her MVP best and Richards and Bradley having double digit points in both games – adding the extra scoreboard pressure they needed, mentioned last week.

Townsville has to restore order and remember who they are – an incoming Whitcomb will help, but the keys will be how much losing last week has motivated Ruef and Aokuso – both of which, together, Sydney doesn’t have like-for-like match ups for and could dominate possession play in this one.

The Fire out-rebound opponents by an average of 3 per game and are 3rd in the competition for offensive rebounding percentage.

LOOK OUT FOR: Townsville’s possession play to overcome a much improved and gallant Flames outfit.




📆 Saturday 30th December

⏰ 5:00 pm AEDT

📍 Melbourne Sports Centres – Parkville

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

This could be a rugby match. 2 physical teams who pride themselves on playing with tenacity. Both NEEDING this result as a crucial and pivotal part of their season.

Melbourne has shown that they can respond from losses and have been admirable in trying to find a way to bind together in the absence of Jordin Canada who lead them to an unbeaten start to the season. Kristy Wallace is still waiting in the wings too.

Credit to the trio of Froling, Blicavs and Hillmon for visibly and tangibly driving cohesiveness and on-court production in her absence. Each of the 3 have stood up tall in their example and contribution, regardless of the result. That bodes the Boomers well for when Canada returns with a vengeance.

They need this win as they risk falling to 4th or, unfathomably, 5th with a loss.

Bendigo’s season is on the line. They’ve lost the season series to 4th placed Southside, 5th placed Sydney and are down 0-1 against the 3rd placed Boomers with a loss deciding the season series.

History suggests teams need 12-13 wins to make the finals and have to win 9-10 of their next 11 – so they will be coming out like a house on fire, lead by the brave duo of Griffin and Kelly Wilson’s example, and the hot shooting of Wehrung and Ally Wilson, trying to keep their season alive.

The hunger and will to win will create waves of momentum on-court, and waves of belief, doubt, optimism and worry internally in this clash.

LOOK OUT FOR : Whoever has more emotional control being able to surf the waves of the game with more clarity in the chaos.



📆 Saturday 30th December

⏰ 7:00 pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Adelaide is still challenged to score more than 70 points in a game, but things are heading in the right direction in their past 2 games with Bourne showing she can average double digit points, Willoughby putting 2 larger scoring games together, Turner up 3 points on her average, and Brazel chipping in a minimum of 6 points in both.

Every opponent will be focusing on stopping Borlase however, which is curse AND gift. If her drive to succeed results in forcing tunnel-visioned offense then it will upset Adelaide’s rhythm. If she can use her gravity as a scorer to get others involved, but stay patient and aggressive – it would be a wonderful growth moment for her as one of the league’s budding stars.

Southside were compromised last round with the exclusions of Jackson and Mitchell, both critically important to the Flyers as Jackson is a key moment go-to in the low post and Mitchell is their last 3-4 minutes of every quarter game manager.

Losing to Perth hurts their ladder position and they’ll be motivated to not only get back on the winner’s list, but they also have an early season loss to the Lightning to avenge.

And they’ll get Jackson and Mitchell back to do it.

LOOK OUT FOR: Southside’s redemption story. Motivated, uncompromising and with a clear intent to get the job done.



📆 Sunday 31st December

⏰ 7:00 pm AEST

📍 Townsville Entertainment Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

What better way to ring in the new year than have 1st VS 2nd on the WNBL ladder be a benchmark test for one another?!

The last time these teams played, this one got chippy and there was a lot of pride and passion on the line. On NYE, the fireworks will be both on and off the court – McDonald VS Reid and Maley VS Ruef are likely to be 2 match ups where each don’t want to give up an inch, turning the heat up in North Queensland.

Townsville suffered the biggest loss they’ve experienced in a number of seasons last round and are faced with the implications of that and how quickly they can bounce back mentally.

Expect to see the return of Sami Whitcomb, which changes the Fire’s landscape significantly as she provides 14.5 points per game and another key playmaker. The 17% they shot from the 3 last round is greatly helped directly and indirectly, by Whitcomb’s inclusion as she will hit them and have the gravity to draw help to her and then find shooters with much more time and space than a week ago.

Perth is entering ‘battle tested’ territory as they build their campaign and rotation for a playoff push. Their team and athletes have fallen, but stood back up tall each time with elite resilience. Amy Atwell had a stretch of her 3 ball not falling, then strung together 3 straight games of 5+ made 3s recently, as an example.

Exorcising the demons of an agonizing 2 point loss to Southside earlier in the season with a dominating win last round shows the growth curve they’re on.

The road to a championship goes through Townsville and this is a big benchmark test for them with the Fire at home, on a major basketball tradition for them on NYE, with a returning Whitcomb, as the ‘poked bear’ last week and wanting to right the wrongs.


LOOK OUT FOR: Sami Whitcomb in ‘refuse to lose’ mode as a difference maker.



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