Women's SBL Season Preview – Perth Redbacks

THE Perth Redbacks were improvers in the Women's SBL during 2015 and they look capable of going a lot further in 2016 having been the busiest outfit during the off-season.

The Redbacks did well in 2015 building a competitive young group under Keith Horwood as coach.

They were able to build from a two-win season in 2014 to winning five in 2015 but they were vastly more competitive, were blown out far less often and quite conceivably could have won several more games with a bit of luck and a bit more experience.

The Redbacks' women haven’t made the playoffs since 2012 but there's every reason to expect them to be back there in 2016 following their movements over summer.

The signing from rival SBL clubs of Bianca Donovan (South West Slammers), Ajay Jones (Kalamunda Eastern Suns), Rebecca Mercer (Joondalup Wolves) and Lisa Wallbutton (Willetton Tigers) instantly make the Redbacks a strong looking squad but that's far from all they have added.

Perth has added a new import in the form of Megan Galloway who was a standout with the Detroit Titans at the University of Detroit Mercy.

And then there is the return of Ashley Gilmore after time with the Bendigo Braves while Jess Hughes is another signing who looks handy from the Hawthorn Magic.

Gabby Clayton is a loss as she heads to the Rockhampton Rockets in Queensland after being the team's leading scorer in 2015 at 13.5 points a game.

Meike Elkington, Lauren Hall and Monique Kickett were also handy role players who have not re-signed.

But the inclusions make the Redbacks the most exciting team coming into the new season.

Mercer was the league's best three-point shooter last season and averaged 18.5 points a game while Donovan contributed 7.8 points, Jones averaged 11.2 points back in 2014 at the Suns and Wallbutton had 7.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game in 2015.

Gabby O'Sullivan (9.5 points last season), Alex Hayward (5.9 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Jess Jakens (11.9 points, 7.0 boards) all remain, though, and will be sure to enjoy the increased help they have around them.

During the SBL Blitz at Warwick Stadium, the Redbacks went through undefeated beating the South West Slammers, Rockingham Flames, East Perth Eagles and Lakeside Lightning.

The Redbacks begin their 2016 season away to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns on Friday March 18 before backing up 24 hours against the Cockburn Cougars on Saturday night at Belmont Oasis Leisure Centre.

ROSTER
Shannon Street, Bianca Donovan, Ajay Jones, Lisa Wallbutton, Jess Hughes, Lori Ashworth, Jess Jakens, Gabby O'Sullivan, Kaitlyn Fashho, Alix Hayward, Lucy Driscoll, Chloe Smith, Tahlia Mellor, Megan Galloway (restricted), Ashley Gilmore, Maddison Galliott, Emily Nixon, Rebecca Mercer
Coach – Keith Horwood

EXPERTS THOUGHTS
Championship Winning Coach - VLAD ALAVA
PREDICTION – 2nd
It was a shopping spree of sorts this off-season for the Redback women. They have some big time additions to their roster and I feel good for someone like Jess Jakens - for so long the standout for someone so young, now she will most likely win more games this one year than in the last couple put together. Not sure which of the Jones, Donovan, Wallbutton, Mercer and Gilmore signings will end up being the most significant but it will be a nice change for Redback fans to see some more wins for their women. I'm banking on team cohesion with so many new faces and no issues with who is shooting the ball on a nightly basis being not much of an issue having them ranked second. How Gilmore goes after a long layoff will be interesting in itself.

MATT CECINS
PREDICTION – 4th
The Redbacks have been the talk of the off season with their recruiting. Jess Jakens will benefit greatly from added front court help now with Lisa Wallbutton and Ashley Gilmore. The Redbacks have greater options at small forward and in the backcourt with Bianca Donovan, Ajay Jones and the best three-point shooter in the league, Rebecca Mercer. Gabby O’Sullivan will return to Perth during 2016, and adds further scoring punch and energy to the group. Exciting times ahead for the Redbacks.

ANONYMOUS
PREDICTION – 4th
They have been the most active team in the off-season and now have huge perimeter threats with Ajay Jones and Rebecca Mercer. Wallbutton adds size and experience, Donovan will be a handy inclusion and Gilmore will be valuable on return. Will miss Gabby Clayton but have added enough to be a contender.

Article by Chris Pike




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