SBL season preview – East Perth Eagles
THE East Perth Eagles are looking to continue the form in the men's SBL competition in 2015 that took them to the title in 2014 while the women look to rise up the table under new coach Narelle Henry.
The Eagles made history last year winning their first ever championship in the men's competition and now coach Aaron Forde will be looking to go back to back, while the Lady Eagles have a new coach in Henry as they look to climb the standings.
The Eagles' men only finished the regular season last year in seventh position, but beat the Rockingham Flames and Perth Redbacks in the playoffs before then winning the 99-83 grand final over the Geraldton Buccaneers.
The experience of Drew Williamson, Joe-Alan Tupaea and Tom Jervis, and strong contributions from Mathiang Muo, Nikola Donlagic and Kyle Armour all led the Eagles to the championship.
However, the Eagles have lost Armour, Muo, Kisselev and Donlagic for the 2015 season and while Jervis remains signed, it's unknown how much the Perth Wildcats will want him playing in the SBL.
However, captain Williamson and 400-game Grand Final MVP Tupaea are both back for another campaign.
East Perth has retained Sunday Dech as well after another season as a Wildcats development player with Rhys Vague on board from the Cockburn Cougars, and potentially ready to take the SBL by storm after a season with the Wildcats as a development player.
Italian import Stefano Simeloi is also on board with the Eagles for 2015.
As for the Lady Eagles, Henry takes over a team that won just two games in 2014 and ended off on a 16-game losing streak, but there is reason to suggest they can improve.
Stephanie Jones is back with the Eagles as their import after averaging 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds a game last season. Kelsie Maffin joins her with Courtney Stubbs also on board from the Stirling Senators.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Defending champs probably deserve to be higher, but just like last year they will finish strong when/if they get Tom Jervis back on board. Return Williamson and GF winning machine Tupaea and Sunday Dech, plus add Vague (Wildcats DP/Cockburn) and this is again a nice looking squad. Well coached with Fordie at the helm. This might seem low, but it's where they finished last year and have proven they can win it from here.
My Prediction: 6th
Three key losses in personnel this year with Armour, Kisselev and Donlagic not returning to the defending champions. There is a noticeable lack of experience and quality at power forward for the Eagles. 2014 MSBL Grand Final MVP Joe Allan Tupaea and Sunday Dech will have to shoulder a lot of the back court duties, with not a great deal of quality back up off the bench. How many games Tom Jervis plays and the impact of the Italian import Simeloi will dictate whether the Eagles sneak into the top 8.
My Prediction: 10th
The loss of Armour, Muo, Kisselev and Donlagic will hurt, and their chances of going back to back might very well hinge on the presence of Jervis but any team still possessing Williamson, Tupaea and Dech has plenty to build on, and then with Vague and a relatively unknown import in Simeloi from Italy, they should still be around the mark.
My Prediction: 7th
The coaching carousel continues at Eagles, but the team remains very similar. Maffin returning will provide them with some much needed perimeter shooting, but the team is filled with a lot of players who have definitive strengths but aren’t complete players. Coach Henry would have to do an outstanding job for them to push into finals contention.
My Prediction: 12th
Narelle Henry takes over the coaching reigns and will oversee a much-improved Eagles outfit this season. The Eagles have one of the most experienced rosters in the league and Steph Jones is a superstar.
My Prediction: 9th
They will definitely improve on last year with Henry at the helm, however still see them around the foot of the table as they continue to develop.
My Prediction: 11th