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WNBL ultimate information: New signings, roster changes and stars to watch from every team

There’s been some big-name signings and massive roster movements but new COVID-19 variant Omicron could be the biggest player of them all in the Women’s National Basketball League.

The WNBL season has been pushed back to Saturday after Thursday’s matches were rescheduled amid Western Australia’s hard border closures that will see Perth Lynx remain in WA all of December.

The reshuffle will see the season tip-off with Victorian teams the Southside Flyers playing the Bendigo Spirit in Dandenong while Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning will launch their seasons in round two in Adelaide.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has said his plan is still to declare in the first half of December a date for the state to open up, but authorities will watch what happens with the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 carefully over the next week.

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LIGHTNING TOPS
Camera IconThe WNBL season kicks off . Matt Loxton Credit: News Corp Australia

Perth Lynx fans will have to wait until round five against arch-rivals Adelaide Lightning to see perhaps the biggest off-season signing, Olympic gold medallist and Las Vegas Ace Jackie Young in action.

There’s a sprinkling of WNBA stars throughout the league, but a young Aussie to keep an eye on is Canberra Capitals Jade Melbourne. The 19-year-old made her Opals debut in the recent FIBA Asia Cup tournament and will be looking to take her game to another level this season.

All WNBL games will be broadcast live across FoxSports, Kayo or Kayo Freebies and today we run our eye over each team ahead of Saturday’s competition start, which the WNBL announced this week has a 100 per cent vaccination rate against COVID-19.

All players, coaches, officials and team staff across all eight clubs and the WNBL itself will be fully vaccinated by round one.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

Coach: Chris Lucas

Captain: Steph Talbot

Last season: 6th

Star power: Former WNBA first-round draft pick Alanna Smith returns to Australia for her first stint in the WNBL, having helped the Phoenix Mercury to the WNBA finals earlier this year. She returns as an Olympian having represented Australia at the Tokyo Games and is expected to make her WNBL debut in round two when the Lightning meets the Townsville Fire.

Ins/Outs: Power forward/centre Kylee Shook will join the side from the New York Liberty, while Stanford University’s all-time three-point leader Kiana Williams is also line up after a recent stint with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. Jasmin Fejo returns to the roster, having missed last season with the birth of her son.

TAB Odds: $11.00

BBall Aus V USA Women OLY
Camera IconAlanna Smith in action during the Tokyo Olympics. Adam Head Credit: News Corp Australia

BENDIGO SPIRIT

Coach: Tracy York

Captain: Tessa Lavey

Last season: 8th (last)

Star power: Described as “one of the biggest player signings in Spirit history” by coach Tracy York, veteran WNBA guard Leilani Mitchell will go a long way to helping Bendigo improve on last year’s disappointing campaign. Outside of her 12-year career in the US, Mitchell has won the WNBL championship three times and represented Australia at two Olympic Games.

Ins/Outs: Power forward Katherine Plouffe will miss the 2021/22 season after opting not to become vaccinated against Covid-19, a stance the Spirit said posed “insurmountable challenges” to keeping her on the roster. Carly Boag, who won a WNBL championship with the Sydney Flames and has had playing stints in both America and Europe joins the club with Maddie Garrick returning.

TAB: $11.00

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

Coach: Guy Molloy

Last season: 4th (preliminary final)

Star power: WNBA star Tiffany Mitchell joins the Boomers for her first stint in the WNBL. The former WNBA first-round draft pick’s basketball CV features stints with the Indiana Fever, selection in the WNBA’s 2016 All-Rookie Team and representative honours for the United States.

Ins/Outs: Coach Guy Molloy is taking charge for his final season and will have to contend without Kiwi international Ashleigh Karaitiana, who has returned to Queensland to be with family. Karaitiana’s countrywoman Toni Farnworth has announced her retirement, but the Boomers welcome Lindsay Allen back into the side, after she missed last season due to Covid-19 restrictions.

TAB: $5.00

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PERTH LYNX

Coach: Ryan Petrik

Captain: TBA

Last season: 7th

Star power: Jackie Young, the WNBA’s number one draft pick for 2019, is heading to Perth for the 2021/22 season. Outside of her career with the Las Vegas Aces, Young won Olympic Gold in the 3×3 women’s basketball event at Tokyo and says she “can’t wait” to suit up for the Lynx.

Ins/Outs: Young’s fellow WNBA guard and 2019 draftee Marina Mabrey is bound for Perth, while the side has also managed to lure Sydney Uni Flames centre Lauren Scherf into its ranks. The Lynx will have to manage without two-time Olympian Katie Ebzery, however, who made the shock decision to call time on her stellar 15-year career.

TAB: $4.50

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

Coach: Cheryl Chambers

Captain: Jenna O’Hea

Last season: 1st (champions)

Star power: Abby Bishop is back playing in Australia, bringing with her a wealth of experience. Crowned the WNBL’s most valuable player in 2015, Bishop will add size to a roster looking to cover for the departure of Liz Cambage. Bishop’s career overseas has yielded a WNBA championship (2010) with the Seattle Storm.

Ins/Outs: The biggest out for the Flyers, and the WNBL is international superstar Liz Cambage, who was instrumental in the side’s title win last year. They’ve also farewelled Leilani Mitchell and Rebecca Pizzey, who are taking up opportunities with the Spirit and Flames, respectively. The reigning premiers have added guards Kate Gaze, a former member of Townsville’s leadership group, and dual WNBL championship player Maddison Rocci.

TAB: $4.50

SYDNEY UNIVERSITY FLAMES

Coach: Shane Heal

Captain: Keely Froling and Lauren Mansfield

Last season: 5th

Star power: The Flames may be in for a tough year with a new coach and new-look roster, but expect big things from Keely Froling. A WNBL champion during her time at the Capitals, she most recently won a bronze medal as a member of Australia’s FIBA Asia Cup team and new coach Shane Heal has named her one of the club’s two co-captains.

Ins/Outs: Shane Heal replaces Katrina Hibbert in the hot seat at the Flames, after the club opted not to renew Hibbert’s contract at the end of last season and his star daughter Shyla Heal has joined him after her short-lived WNBA experience. Stephanie Watts, Kalani Purcell, Bec Pizzey are among those who have joined the new-look Flames roster.

TAB: $17.00

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

Coach: Shannon Seebohm

Captain: TBA

Last season: 2nd (runners-up)

Star power: WNBL 2020 Coach of the Year Shannon Seebohm says he is “extremely excited” to welcome Monique Billings to Townsville. Having most recently played for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA, Billings will add size and experience to the roster in the first year of her WNBL career.

Ins/Outs: The Fire have lost Shyla Heal to the Flames this year, as well as Megan McKay to the Spirit.

Kate Gaze, a member of last year’s leadership group, also looms as a big loss. Fans should be

excited about the acquisition of Alecia ‘Sug’ Sutton, though after a stint with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

TAB: $6.00

Fire vs Flyers action gallery
Camera IconShyla Heal has moved to the Flame. Evan Morgan Credit: News Corp Australia
Opals player Jade Melbourne is one to watch. FIBA and Basketball Australia
Camera IconOpals player Jade Melbourne is one to watch. FIBA and Basketball Australia Credit: Supplied

CANBERRA CAPITALS

Coach: Paul Goriss

Captain: Kelsey Griffin

Last season: 3rd (semi-finals)

Star power: WNBA superstar Brittney Sykes is heading to the nation’s capital. She’s spent five years playing in the WNBA and in that time has been named in the WNBA All-Rookie Team (2017), the WNBA All-Defensive First Team (2021) and this season led the league in steals.

Ins/Outs: Aussie international Keely Froling has defected to join the Sydney Uni Flames, while champion guard Madison Rocci will suit up for the Flyers this season. In better news, Froling’s twin sister Alicia has signed on for the Capitals, as has veteran Kelly Wilson, who was a member of the Canberra side the won the 2018-2019 WNBL championship.

TAB: $8.00

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