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WNBL season 2015-2016: Title prospects and key players for every team

Reigning WNBL MVP Abby Bishop will dictate how far the Canberra Capitals go this year.

Reigning WNBL MVP Abby Bishop will dictate how far the Canberra Capitals go this year. Photo: Matt Bedford

Adelaide Lightning

Coach: Tracy York

Last season: Missed finals

Rachel Jarry has Rio in her sights and her defence, rebounding and timely baskets will be key for the Stars.

Rachel Jarry has Rio in her sights and her defence, rebounding and timely baskets will be key for the Stars. Photo: Mick Connolly

Likely starters: Leilani Mitchell, Mikayla Pirini, Kelly Bowen, Jess Bygate, Mikaela Ruef.


Bench: Mikaela Dombkins, Jess Good, Morgan Yaeger, Mollie McKendrick, Tara Robinson, Ieva Nagy, Alex Ciabattoni, Taylor Ortlepp.

MVP: Leilani Mitchell will be the everything for a painfully young Lightning side and the Opals star point guard will need to marshall all her play-making skills to find them scoring opportunities.

Encouraging form: Sara Blicavs (centre).

Sara Blicavs could be ready for her best WNBL season after making her Opals’ debut. Photo: Ian Hitchcock

Player to watch: Kelly Bowen starred in the SEABL this past season with Frankston Blues and will relish extra minutes as a starter with the Lightning, she could have a big year.

Title chances: Just getting back on the court is a win for the Lightning after only last minute support saved them from extinction. Mitchell makes them worth watching while their young talent could cause a few upsets.

Bendigo Spirit

Coach: Simon Pritchard

Last season: Runners up.

Likely starters: Kelly Wilson, Belinda Snell, Kelsey Griffin, Joy Burke, Gabe Richards.

Bench: Heather Oliver, Kerryn Harrington, Sarah McAppion, Molly Matthews, Jane Chalmers, Andrea Wilson, Ashleigh Spencer.

MVP: Gabe Richards is still the barometer for the Spirit with her rebounding and inside play, Kelsey Griffin is the Spirit’s superstar but the Opals centre will be crucial to the Spirit’s chances of remaining among the top sides.

Player to watch: Kelly Wilson is a well-established WNBL star and with a lighter Spirit bench her scoring and heady play will be vital.

Title chances: With two-time championship coach Bernie Harrower ousted and Pritchard now running the show, the Spirit will have a tough time remaining among the best although never doubt their ability to grind out wins. Still a potential finals side.

Dandenong Rangers

Coach: Larissa Anderson

Last season: Lost in elimination final.

Likely starters: Aimee Clydesdale, Steph Cumming, Sara Blicavs, Annalise Pickrel, Lauren Scherf.

Bench: Jacinta Kennedy, Alex Bunton, Tenaya Phillips, Amelia Todhunter, Tegan Cunningham, Alison Downie.

MVP: Sara Blicavs could be ready for her best WNBL season after making her Opals’ debut and now having the chance of competing for a place in Rio. Blicavs could be anything this season.

Player to watch: Aimee Clydesdale and Lauren Scherf could both have breakout years now the Rangers have room to play them with Clydesdale a speedy guard and Scherf a fast improving centre.

Title chances: Under first year coach Larissa Anderson the Rangers are hard to define. Their local talent is strong but they could lack a little in experience. Still expect them to press for finals, if they make it they could be capable of making a title run.

Melbourne Boomers

Coach: Guy Molloy

Last season: Just missed finals

Likely starters: Tess Madgen, Maddie Garrick, Alice Kunek, Olivia Thompson, Elyse Penaluna

Bench: Brittany Smart, Kate Oliver, Shanae Greaves, Tayla Roberts, Rosie Moult.

MVP: Tess Madgen had a taste of the WNBA during the offseason and impressed with the Opals so she’s ready for another elite WNBL campaign with the Boomers who need her poise in the backcourt.

Player to watch: Maddie Garrick has come off the bench for several years in Bendigo, now she’s ready for a serious role and she could make an impact defensively.

Title chances: Write the Boomers off at your own risk, the club is as steady as its ever been and Molloy’s system usually takes a few weeks to settle in so watch for a second half run from the Boomers.

Perth Lynx

Coach: Andy Stewart

Last season: Missed finals

Likely starters: Tessa Lavey, Sami Whitcomb, Betnijah Laney, Louella Tomlinson, Natalie Burton.

Bench: Carley Mijovic, Klara Wisher, Izzy Chilcott, Stacey Barr, Toni Edmondson.

MVP: Tessa Lavey is one of the Opals’ point guards and a super-fast player so expect her to power the newly named Lynx this season. Lavey should have some good targets in the likes of Tomlinson, Burton and Laney.

Player to watch: Louella Tomlinson is an elite shot-blocker and should be able to show some more offensive tricks this season, will form a very tall front line with Burton, Laney and Mijovic.

Title chances: Impossible to place this side right now as they are a completely new team and now under the management of Perth Wildcats. If Stewart gets them to click then the Lynx will be right in the hunt for finals.

South East Queensland Stars

Coach: Shane Heal

Last season: New franchise.

Likely starters: Erin Phillips, Rachel Jarry, Rebecca Allen, Ify Ibekwe, Denesha Stallworth.

Bench: Amy Lewis, Bree Farley, Nadeen Payne, Stephanie Bairstow, Lauren Mansfield, Emma Mackenzie.

MVP: Opals gun Rachel Jarry will need to lead this side into it’s maiden WNBL campaign with Phillips and Allen battling back from injuries picked up in WNBA play. Jarry has Rio in her sights and her defence, rebounding and timely baskets will be key for the Stars.

Player to watch: Denesha Stallworth is a high calibre import centre who has WNBA and European experience. Maybe a little undersized but expect her to have some big nights in the paint.

Title chances: The Stars have put together an ominous roster and if they are all firing they will contend. But if Phillips, Allen miss much of the campaign they come back to the field. Pencil them in as a maybe for the finals.

Sydney University Flames

Coach: Shannon Seebohm

Last season: Lost preliminary final

Likely starters: Katie Rae Ebzery, Tahlia Tupaea, Hayley Moffat, Rohanee Cox, Carolyn Swords.

Bench: Josyln Tinkle, Alex Wilson, Casey Samuels, Nicole How, Kathryn Rendell, Carly Boag, Darneka Rowe, Kate Seebohm.

MVP: With Leilani Mitchell gone, Ebzery is left to lead the Flames as they look to take the next step and make the grand final. Ebzery is poised for a big season but will need to bring Tupaea, Cox and the rest along with her.

Player to watch: Alex Wilson could make an impact with more minutes after coming off the bench in Townsville’s championship team. Her talents fit the Flames’ fast style.

Title chances: Seebohm’s Flames went within a game of the grand final last season and don’t write them off this year. The team will need to get the best from veterans like Cox and their imports in Tinkle and Swords but they have the ability to make another run.

Townsville Fire

Coach: Chris Lucas

Last season: Champions

Likely starters: Micaela Cocks, Tamara Tatham, Mia Murray (nee Newley), Cayla Francis, Suzy Batkovic.

Bench: Natalie Novosel, Cherie Gallagher, Kate Gaze, Darcee Garbin, Jacqui Zelenka, Chevannah Paalvast.

MVP: Losing retired captain Rachael McCully is a blow but Suzy Batkovic is still a superstar in the WNBL and will be the rock for his team. With Rio on her horizons look for another big season from Batkovic.

Player to watch: Cayla Francis has looked the part at WNBA level and should again play a big role as power forward for the Fire.

Title chances: The Fire will contend again but the jury will be out as to whether imports Tatham, Novosel are an upgrade or downgrade on their championship backcourt of McCully and Steph Cumming. You can still expect the Fire to sit among the top sides.

University of Canberra Capitals

Coach: Carrie Graf

Last season: Just missed finals

Likely starters: Renee Montgomery, Steph Talbot, Carly Wilson, Abby Bishop, Lauren Jackson.

Bench: Hanna Zavecz, Abi Wehrung, Alice Coddington, Jess Bibby, Ellie Junod.

MVP: Lauren Jackson will be the figurehead but reigning WNBL MVP Abby Bishop will dictate how far this team goes. Bishop starts the season injured but once over her hamstring issues should star again.

Player to watch: Renee Montgomery is a late signing but the American point guard is coming straight off a WNBA finals campaign with Minnesota Lynx and should give the Capitals another elite star.

Title chances: A fully fit Capitals are arguably championship favourites but with questions around the durability of Jackson and Bishop who knows how they will finish but they should still be a finals side.

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