By Lachy France:
It’s been a long eight months since the conclusion of the 2015/16 WNBL season which saw Brydens Sydney Uni Flames finish just one win out of the finals, but the team has recruited strongly and this Friday night goes up against last season’s runners-up, the Perth Lynx.
It may be a new-look squad for the Flames this season, but plenty of the new players will be familiar to long-time Flames fans as no less than four players return to the club after time away either overseas or with other WNBL clubs. The biggest of these signings is Olympian and 2014/15 Flames squad member Leilani Mitchell, whom the Flames were able to sign late in the off-season after losing Tahlia Tupaea to injury for the first part of the season.
Triple Olympian Belinda Snell has had an excellent preseason since returning to the Flames for her third stint at the club, pouring in a massive 25 points in the team’s recent preseason loss to the Lynx in Moss Vale to lead all scorers. Alongside Mitchell, Sarah Graham, and Alex Wilson, the Flames have put together an outside shooting corps that can match it with any in the league this season in an effort to replace the scoring output of Katie-Rae Ebzery, who has departed the Flames to play in Russia this season.
The Flames have also recruited two American imports with WNBA experience. 201cm centre Jennifer Hamson spent time with the LA Sparks in 2014, while 185cm forward Asia Taylor has played for the Minnesota Lynx and recently completed a short stint at the Connecticut Sun in the latter stages of the recently completed regular season.
The Lynx have also retooled well since reaching the grand final last season, having added two new WNBA calibre imports with former Dandenong Rangers star and current Seattle Storm player Monica Wright being joined by Dallas Wings centre Ruth Hamblin. Hamblin and Flames import Jennifer Hamson are among the tallest players in the league, and it may well be the battle between these two that proves to go a long way in deciding this game as both players face tough tests on their WNBL debuts.
Both teams are dealing with injury concerns even at this early stage, coincidentally both at the point guard position. Flames young gun Tahlia Tupaea will miss several weeks with a foot injury, while Lauren Nicholson is also out for an extended period with a fractured tibia. Rio Olympian Tessa Lavey will be out for the Lynx, and it will be interesting to see how the visitors handle the loss of their captain and floor general.
With victories on the road often hard to come by in the WNBL, it is imperative that the Flames turn Brydens Stadium into a fortress. A win against a team that regularly makes some of the longest away trips in basketball will be the first step in making a trip to Sydney an outing that no team looks forward to.
Sydney Uni Flames v Perth Lynx at 7:30pm on Friday 7th October at Brydens Stadium, Sydney Uni Sports & Aquatic Centre.
Discounted tickets available online here: http://bit.ly/2dDiiG8