ROUND 1 PREVIEW
Friday 12th May -
Sydney Metro Blues v Qld Spinning Bullets @5pm
Season 2017 begins on Friday night between two teams keen to prove themselves after missing the playoffs last season.
Tom O’Neill-Thorne is coming off a big year and will be the leader for the Spinning Bullets this season with his ability to impact all areas of the court a concern for the Blues. However, if Darren Skuse, the league’s second leading rebounder last year, can match him on the glass and help Sydney Metro control the pace of the game, they will be in with a chance to beat their win tally from 2016 on opening night.
Wollongong Roller Hawks v Kilsyth Cobras @7pm
The Roller Hawks have the benefit of hosting the Cluster Round this year and they will be looking for home support to help get them over the line against the defending Champions.
Three Rio Paralympians will lead the charge for Kilsyth while a player like Brian Carminati could provide the X-Factor this season to bring them back to that ultimate glory. Wollongong are certainly not lacking talent either including the return of Brett Stibners who dropped 21 points, 11.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game over three meetings against Kilsyth last year.
Red Dust Heelers v Adelaide Thunder @9pm
It will be an emotional moment for the Thunder when they hit the court on Friday night, having raised the money to make a return to the league of which they were most recently the Champions in 1995.
They will be led from the sidelines by Australian Gliders coach David Gould which will be a major boost but Red Dust are an up-and-coming team that just fell short of a bronze medal last year. Sam White will help them this weekend while the Rollers trio of Brad Ness, Jannik Blair and Adam Deans will be the major roadblock to Adelaide claiming a maiden win.
Saturday 13th May -
Qld Spinning Bullets v Be Active Perth Wheelcats @9am
Last year’s silver medalists face the Spinning Bullets who will be playing their second game of the weekend.
The Wheelcats can be expected to be a force at the offensive end again this season with the return of Shaun Norris alongside Kim Robins who both finished in the top five for scoring in 2016. Queensland were unable to beat them in three meetings last year but only fell by an average of eight points courtesy of cameo performances from Jordan Bartley, Jake Fulwood and Matt McShane which will be necessary if they are to turn around those results and claim a victory this weekend.
Sydney Metro Blues v Kilsyth Cobras @11am
With both teams backing up from the night before, this will be an early test of how the Blues will fare in 2017 as last year’s bottom ranked team comes up against the two-time title winners.
The Cobras won all three meetings through 2016 by at least 30 points as they forced an average of 24 turnovers per contest with a differential of -48 overall. That is an area of focus for Sydney Metro while they also need to curb Kilsyth’s ability to hit long-range shots after Tristan Knowles nailed six three-pointers against them last year.
Red Dust Heelers v Wollongong Roller Hawks @1pm
In this re-match of the 2016 bronze medal, Red Dust will be keen to atone for their 11-point loss when they pushed Wollongong all the way.
That meeting was tied at three-quarter time courtesy of 14 points and ten boards from Ness and 17 combined points off the bench from Ryan Morich and Rob Pike (who are both back for 2017) but they could not contain Stibners (22 points, eight rebounds, five assists)down the stretch as he out-scored the Heelers by himself in the final period.
Be Active Perth Wheelcats v Adelaide Thunder @3pm
After not playing on Friday night, Perth face a double-header on Saturday with only six hours between both games while the Thunder will enjoy the morning off after debuting the night before.
A couple of Wheelcats stars like Sarah Vinci and Amber Merritt, who is already dominating the WNWBL through the first two rounds, will be keen to have big games in front of their national coach David Gould but Adelaide will also be cautious of Norris who is coming off a campaign in which he averaged four points per game more than any other player.
Qld Spinning Bullets v Red Dust Heelers @7pm
A tough schedule for both teams sees them play their third game of the round by Saturday night and their second game of the day as well.
This could be a test of their benches but without Bill Latham or Nicholas Radovich, who were two of the Spinning Bullets top three scorers last season, Queensland could find themselves lacking at the offensive end. A player like Red Dust’s Jake Kavanagh who toured with the Rollers earlier in the year and is a rising star of the competition should take an opportunity like this with both hands.
Sydney Metro Blues v Adelaide Thunder @9pm
The second game on Saturday for both clubs may benefit the Blues slightly with an extra four hours rest coming off their games earlier in the day.
Sydney Metro only play one 2016 finalist through Round 1 which will give them confidence to pick up a victory after going winless through last year but the Thunder will be desperate to prove themselves as no easy-beat despite this being their first season back in the league. Keep an eye on CJ McCarthy-Grogan who is coming off a college Championship where he scored 13 points and eight rebounds in the final.
Sunday 14th May -
Be Active Perth Wheelcats v Kilsyth Cobras @8am
A relatively easy schedule considering the rigours of a Cluster Round sees Kilsyth play their third and final game of the weekend with no two games coming on the same day.
The Wheelcats are also playing just their third game for the round which should set up a fascinating Grand Final re-match to start off Sunday. Kilsyth only just snuck past Perth in the Semi-Final when Norris (30 points, ten assists) scored 12 points in three minutes of the final term to cut down a 16-point margin before his side just fell by a point but it was a different story in the gold medal game, with Kilsyth winning by 26 points courtesy of a Knowles triple-double (28 points, 14 rebounds, 16 assists).
Sydney Metro Blues v Red Dust Heelers @11am
While the Heelers took care of the Blues in all three meetings last year, they made a statement in Round 1 when they smashed them by 43 points.
Sydney Metro will be keen to avoid a repeat of that performance this weekend but must contain Adam Deans and Rob Pike who combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds in the corresponding match-up of 2016. It will be interesting to see how Australian Gliders Jess Cronje and Georgia Munro-Cook can impact this weekend for the Blues in the absence of their assists leader from last season in Kylie Gauci.
Wollongong Roller Hawks v Adelaide Thunder @12pm
Round 1 is capped off by a meeting between Wollongong, who will be playing their third game, and Adelaide who will be playing their fourth, in a test of their second units and on-court fortitude.
Alongside Stibners who will be a threat offensively, Wollongong have Luke Pople and Nick Taylor returning this year with both those players also averaging 15+ points per game through 2016. Pople was named in the All-Star Five with Stibners and their combination around the rim and speed up the court will be a difficult cover for the Thunder.