ROUND 1 PREVIEW
Preview the nine games for Round 1 in the opening weekend of the 2017 season.
Friday 21st April -
Sydney Uni Flames v Kilsyth Cobras @6pm
Season 2017 tips off with a re-match of last year’s bronze medal game, a contest which the Flames won convincingly by 28 points. Retaining much of that roster, Sydney Uni should not be bothered by cohesion issues within the team which some other clubs might suffer from early on.
While Kilsyth have brought back their two best scorers from 2016 in Alice Hammondand Leanne Del Toso, they have lost Shelley Chaplin who led them in assists last season while Hammond will not be available this weekend. They will need to find someone who can distribute as well as she did very quickly or suffer the same fate as their bronze medal defeat from last year.
Be Active Western Stars v Red Dust Lady Heelers @8pm
The newest team in the league will hit the court on the first night of the season and they immediately face a tough task as they come up against the defending Champions.
Red Dust are benefited by the inclusion of Gliders Kathleen O’Kelly- Kennedy and Clare Nott as well as Georgia Inglis, who will be keen to prove herself against her old club and make an impact on the glass. Their ability to contain Amber Merritt and Chihiro Kitada, the league’s two most prominent scorers from last year, will be the difference though.
Saturday 22nd April -
Sydney Uni Flames v Sydney Metro Blues @8am
The Flames back up just over 12 hours after their first game against their interstate rivals who will be keen to attack them on the fast break and look to exploit any fatigue. Sydney Metro come into 2017 aiming to go one step further than their silver medal winning performance from last season and they look to have made the additions to get them there.
Liesl Tesch, Australian Basketball Hall of Famer, is back in the WNWBL after leading the competition for scoring in five separate seasons but she will not hit the court in Round 1 which could give Annabelle Lindsay, a Glider of the future, more responsibility this weekend. Combined with 2016 All-Stars Kylie Gauci and Bridie Kean, the Blues pose a tough match-up for the Flames on Saturday morning.
Be Active Western Stars v Kilsyth Cobras @10am
Both sides will be playing their second game of the round with Kilsyth coming into the clash on an extra two hours rest following their first matches.
While Merritt and Kitada are as dangerous as ever at the offensive end, the Stars have lost Inglis whose ability to find them for good looks was an underrated aspect of the Stars’ Championship run in 2016. It will be interesting to see if the Stars can put up winning scores without that help after they beat Kilsyth by an average margin of 29 points last year.
Red Dust Lady Heelers v Sydney Uni Flames @12pm
With a number of new players in the league this season for Red Dust, they will be looking towards a player like Clare Nott to help them deal with the rigours of a national competition that includes playing a number of games in a short space of time.
Nott was the Finals MVP when she represented Kilsyth in their 2015 Championship and her ability to run the floor alongside Inglis will be key to the Heelers’ chances. Sydney Uni have their own high-calibre performers though, including Hannah Dodd who averaged double-figures in scoring last year as well as Sarah Stewart who was the 2016 overall MVP.
Be Active Western Stars v Sydney Metro Blues @2pm
A big clash closes out Saturday afternoon with the Stars and Blues meeting for the first time since their gold medal playoff last year.
In that game, Kitada was unstoppable with 30 points on 13-25 shooting as well as 13 rebounds and four steals, a performance that is sure to have given the Blues nightmares over the off-season. Cobi Crispin came to play though in the finals series and Sydney Metro will need a well-rounded team performance from the likes of her in combination with Gauci and Kean if they are going to exact revenge.
Sunday 23rd April -
Red Dust Lady Heelers v Kilsyth Cobras @8am
Alongside the Blues, the Cobras only play three games in Round 1 and this will be their final clash as they come up against the Heelers.
A couple of newcomers in the likes of Kim Hampton and Elyse Penaluna make the Cobras a bit of an unknown this year but with some players needing time to settle in and Penaluna not available in Round 1, this could be Red Dust’s best chance at a maiden victory for Round 1.
Be Active Western Stars v Sydney Uni Flames @10am
In their fourth and final game for the weekend, this will be a test of endurance and how the clubs can deal with fatigue in a battle of two 2016 medal winners.
A bye in Round 2 for the Stars may give them a little extra motivation to go hard in what will be their final game for almost a month but the Flames will also be keen to prove themselves after they were no match for their opposition in 2016, losing four straight meetings by an average margin of 33 points.
Red Dust Lady Heelers v Sydney Metro Blues @12pm
The Heelers will truly be tested in the last game of Round 1 as they hit the court for the second time in just four hours against a Blues side that will not have played for almost 24 hours and will also be playing one less game for the weekend.
Finishing as one of the top performers at the 2017 Osaka Cup, this is a big year for Georgia Munro-Cook as she continues to develop into a Glider and her performance as a back-up to the stars of the Blues, especially in games like this where fatigue could play a factor, will be crucial.