WNBL expert Hayley Wildes gets us up to date with the 2021/22 competition, and where each team stands ahead of the competition’s December 2 start.
The WNBL season gets underway on December 2 and after an off-season filled with player movement and big signings, we’re here to help you get acquainted and prepare for the season ahead!
Teams across the league have loaded up, so making predictions for season 2021/22 is near impossible with so many teams well and truly in the Championship race. In previous seasons there have clearly been a couple of standout teams, but you could make the case for almost every team being capable of making a run to the postseason.
The Adelaide Lightning relied far too heavily on Steph Talbot last season and although she had an unbelievably good season and took out league MVP honours, she simply couldn’t do it all by herself.
Fast forward to season 2021/22 and Talbot is set to be surrounded by talent. Alanna Smith, who was forced to sit out all of last season due to an ankle injury, will suit up for the Lightning. After a couple of seasons in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury, where she hasn’t been able to crack into the rotation, she will have a chance to play plenty of minutes and showcase her incredible game.
Smith, who is still just 25 years old, has all the makings of a player who can take the WNBL by storm this season. Alongside Smith and Talbot, Adelaide have also added import Kiana Williams, who was selected by the Seattle Storm with pick #18 in this year’s WNBA draft. Kylee Shook–a centre who plays for the New York Liberty and is a capable outside shooter–also looks set to suit up for Adelaide.
The Bendigo Spirit went winless last season but quickly got to work in the off-season to ensure that won’t happen again.
After carrying the Spirit last season, Tessa Lavey finally has some help and that comes in the form of two backcourt players who will bring plenty of offensive firepower to Bendigo. Leilani Mitchell and Maddie Garrick have moved from Southside and Melbourne respectively to team up in Bendigo and form a deadly guard rotation alongside Lavey.
Mitchell and Garrick add so much scoring to Bendigo’s arsenal, but there’s another addition who will be just as important; Anneli Maley. Maley is an absolutely relentless rebounder and after leading the league in rebounding last season, she will shore up the Spirit’s defence and help get her team running in transition.
The Canberra Capitals are always a threat–they just win games of basketball and have done so for a long time now. Whilst they’ve certainly lost some key players–the likes of Marianna Tolo and Maddi Rocci–the Capitals have added major star power by signing Brittney Sykes.
Sykes is a defensive menace and will create havoc on that end of the floor. She anchored the LA Sparks defence this past WNBA season and was a member of the WNBA’s 2021 All-Defensive First Team and came runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Another player to keep an eye on is young star Jade Melbourne. Melbourne, at just 19 years of age, made her Opals debut in the recent FIBA Asia Cup tournament and is an excitement machine. She has a massive future with the Opals with her infectious energy and speed setting her apart.
The Boomers are a certified Championship contender, boasting a starting five that is sure to give opposition players some serious fits.
Their Opal trio of Ezi Magbegor, Cayla George and Tess Madgen provide a core that is among the best in the league and added into that mix are two imports who will have a huge say in season 2021/22.
Lindsay Allen is back in Melbourne and is joined by Indiana Fever teammate Tiffany Mitchell. Allen finished third in WNBL MVP voting in 2018/19 and is such a classy player with speed to burn, while Mitchell can do a bit of everything while being a force on the defensive end.
Perth might just be the Championship favourite heading into the season with some blockbuster signings that should see them soar up the ladder.
The Lynx pulled off perhaps the biggest signing of the off-season by snapping up Olympic Gold medallist and Las Vegas Ace Jackie Young. Young has the potential to set the league alight with her ability to create her own shot, while she also loves to compete on both ends of the court.
Speaking of competitors, Perth’s second import signing, Marina Mabrey, is the definition of a competitor. Mabrey and Young played college basketball together at Notre and will team up once again in the West. Mabrey is a fierce competitor and will never take a backwards step.
The Lynx also boast Lauren Scherf and Darcee Garbin, who helped the Opals to a bronze medal at the FIBA Asia Cup and if they also attain the signature of Sami Whitcomb–who is rumoured to be in talks with the team–Perth will be an incredibly hard team to beat.
Southside head into season 2021/22 aiming to defend their title, and they’ll be doing so without any imports–but don’t count them out for a second!
Their Australian talent is almost unmatched, boasting returning stars Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Bec Cole, while also adding two superstar talents in former WNBL MVP Abby Bishop and rising star Maddi Rocci.
The addition of Bishop is incredibly exciting for Southside fans and I predict her to have an MVP-calibre season after recently dominating in Italy. The Flyers may not have the depth they had last season, but they’re absolutely still a Championship threat.
Sydney Uni Flames
Sydney Uni is almost unrecognisable from last season, undergoing major changes and it all starts with the Heals. Boomers legend Shane Heal has taken over the coaching reins and Shyla Heal will be orchestrating the offence from the point guard position.
Heal’s rookie WNBA season never really got off the ground after being waived by the Chicago Sky just a couple of weeks into her career. It was a ruthless welcome to the WNBA for Heal but with that chip on her shoulder, she’ll be out to prove herself with Sydney Uni.
The Flames have also added two other 2021 WNBA top 10 draft picks in Chelsea Dungee and Stephanie Watts. Sydney Uni will be a run-and-gun type of team and should be an electrifying team to watch.
Townsville made a surprise run to the Grand Final last season and while they’ve lost Shyla Heal, they still have Lauren Nicholson, who finished third in league MVP voting. Nicholson is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league and combined with her speed and ability to attack the basket, she’s a true two-way player.
Townsville have added a pair of imports; guard Sug Sutton and forward Monique Billings. Sutton will help lighten some of the offensive load for Nicholson, while Billings is a beast on the boards. Billings will join young star Zitina Aokuso in the frontcourt and they should form a formidable duo.