Downtown’s Roy Ward looks over the new additions to each of the eight rosters.
New to the league: Kelly Faris comes to the WNBL with exceptional pedigree playing for Team USA women’s coach Geno Auriemma at University of Connecticut then in the WNBA with Connecticut Sun. Faris is a skilled point guard who was a late replacement for Natalie Novosel after she injured her knee in the SA State League. Faris’ should give the Lightning a great two-way player and distributer - if she can add some points and assists the Lightning may win enough games to make the playoffs.
New to the club: Emma Langford crosses over from the defunct Logan Thunder and will give the Lightning an exceptional glue player at the three spot and someone who can even move into the low post in faster lineups. Alex Bunton and Carley Mijovic come over from Canberra with the desire for more minutes and an opportunity to further impress Opals coach Brendan Joyce - they will get both but if either player doesn’t perform they will spend time on the bench. Kerryn Harrington, who looks keen to prove she can mix it with the best at WNBL level after knee problems, may prove a great signing while Kathleen Scheer adds experience and local knowledge at the import position
New to the club: The Spirit haven’t brought in any outsiders and after winning two-straight titles who could blame them? They have, however, made a huge signing in Opals shooter Belinda Snell. Not only will she bring her world-tested three-point shot but Snell will also give the team another calm head, something much-needed considering how close the league has become. Tayla Roberts gives the Spirit another post player on the bench to help rest Chelsea Aubry and Gabrielle Richards.
New to the league: Teenage point guard Abbey Wehrung comes straight out of the Australian under-19 side and into the Capitals who signed her to a three-year deal. Carrie Graf says her new charge has some grit and will thrive working every day with the team’s veteran players. Wehrung didn’t look too out of place at the WNBL preseason tournament but she will have to fight for every minute against the likes of Kristen Veal, Steph Talbot and Jess Bibby.
New to the club: Lauren Jackson needs no introduction and would have played last season if not for injury. Jackson will miss the first bit of the season but will be a key player in the run to the finals. Veteran point guard Kristen Veal is a prized signing and gives the Capitals a worldly ball-handler and playmaker as she comes to Canberra from Logan Thunder. Hanna Zavecz is another refugee from the Thunder and looks the perfect fit for the Capitals with her athletic defence and skills on offence complementing the rest of the team. Steph Talbot is another prized signing as she is a natural defensive ace and has a great knack of being able to drive into the paint and make plays.
New to the league: Cappie Pondexter is a world-class scorer and WNBA top-15 all time great. Her recruitment was a surprise but the Beijing gold medallist won’t bring any unexpected traits with her - she will simply get buckets at every opportunity. Annalise Pickrel is the Rangers’ second import and comes to the WNBL fresh from graduating from Michigan State. Pickrel is a nimble power forward similar to Kayla Standish. The Rangers had planned for Pickrel to adjust to the WNBL by coming off the bench but with Liz Cambage’s injury she may well play big minutes from the tip-off.New to the club: Amanda Meinking and Chloe Bibby aren’t new to Dandenong but both teenagers are expected to play roles during the season. Meinking has done well at lower levels and the Rangers hope to fast track her development while Bibby is an impressive 16 year old who played for Australia at under-17 level and battled hard during preseason.
New to the club: The Boomers set their sights on keeping their talented roster together and they did that in rapid time at the end of last season. They also made the key addition of Opals’ backup centre Natalie Burton who continues to go from strength to strength since being elevated to the national team. Burton impressed in Turkey with her floor running and ability to block shots and rebound - the Boomers want her to do all that and add a few points.
Olivia Thompson and Kelly Bowen will give the side toughness and defence at the forward position as will Rosie Moult when she comes back into the side in the coming months after recovering from offseason surgery. Kayla Standish is expected to sign with the Boomers in the coming days as the injury replacement for Rachel Jarry and she should give the side some key points off the bench and throw in a few rebounds as well.
New to the league: Mikaela Ruef and Paris Johnson will fill the import slots for the Flames and both come in with excellent resumes within the US college and WNBA system. But whether they have the smarts and temperament to adjust to WNBL referees and handle the likes of Suzy Batkovic will dictate how successful they are this season.
New to the team: Leilani Mitchell is a huge signing for the Flames after Dandenong let Mitchell free following the return of Kathleen Macleod from pregnancy. Mitchell was an all-league playmaker last season and should continue in that vein for the Flames who were in desperate need for a point guard who can make the rest of their roster better.
Kate Oliver also joins the Flames after graduating from University of Southern California, the 193-centimeter forward-centre gives the team a solid back-up centre and someone who could develop quickly. Nicole How and Hayley Moffat should be solid bench players but may not see too many minutes early in the season
New to the league: New Zealand international Jillian Harmon comes to the WNBL after playing in Europe and with her country. Harmon is a fearless forward who will battle for every rebound and probably add a few baskets as well. Kate Gaze completed her studies at St Mary’s in the US and now begins her WNBL career with one of the leading teams in the competition. Gaze will back-up Rachael McCully and give the side some extra outside shooting as well.
New to the team: Cayla Francis moves to Townsville from Logan Thunder and may prove a title-winning signing as she can give the side a second post target and reduce the strain on Suzy Batkovic. Francis looked in great form for the Opals at the FIBA women’s world championships in Turkey and will hopefully carry that touch into the Fire’s crucial early matches against other contending teams.
New to the league: Lindsey Moore may prove the best signing of the season with the WNBA point guard testing out the WNBL as a member of the Waves. Moore will start at point guard and look to run the show both as a distributor and a major scoring option. Moore was stellar at the preseason tournament and gives the Waves’ a calm ball-handler and key scorer. Moore can defend as well so no other point guard should expect an easy night against her.The Waves other import is forward Cassie Harberts who has some WNBA pedigree and shapes as a power forward with a physical game and some polish in the low post.
New to the club: Three-point ace Sarah Graham has crossed to WA and will relish the chance to play longer minutes and probably turn in a few big nights this season, especially if Moore can lure in extra defenders. Louella Tomlinson will start at centre after returning home from Europe to play for the Waves. Tomlinson is one of the best shot-blockers in the WNBL and has become a little stronger while in Europe so should add some points around the basket as well. Tomlinson’s last WNBL appearance was in Dandenong Rangers’ championship win.
Follow me on Twitter: @rpjward
Follow Downtown: @Downtownball