The Big V finals are here with action set to kick-off this weekend. So which sides are shaping up best for a tilt at the State Championship titles?
State Championship Women
The top five will advance to the State Championship women’s finals series, and with the competition one of the tightest in recent years, all five teams have a genuine chance of making the grand final.
Hume City Broncos
The Broncos are deservedly the favourites to take out yet another Big V championship by the end of August. They dropped just two games all season, and beat Ringwood – their main rivals for the title – both times and continue to hold the wood over the Hawks in recent seasons. They have the best player in the competition in Colleen Planeta, while the likes of Samara Gallaher, Nicole Zammit and Viv Saad are all very capable players in their own right, making the Broncos very hard to cover for opposition sides. While they are certainly not invincible, they will be extremely hard to beat; especially given they will host two of the three games in a grand final series.
As they have been in recent seasons, the Hawks are again right in the hunt for a title as the post-season begins. The key difference this season is that they did not finish on top of the ladder and will have to win away from home if they face the Broncos in the decider. Given winning at home has proven more difficult against Hume in recent times, that could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Nonetheless, after a slow start to the season Amber Hegge is starting to find her best form, while Lauren Oosdyke is always dangerous and Emma Beddome has been rock solid as usual. All the focus is on the Broncos this season, but the Hawks have flown under the radar a little and are still very much a force to be reckoned with.
The Boomers have won eight of nine heading into the finals, and if they can safely negate the up-and-down Waverley then there is every chance they can cause at least one more upset and go pretty deep into August. They are yet to beat the Falcons this season, however, which means the first hurdle could also just as easily trip them up. Regardless, the Boomers have beaten both Southern Peninsula and Hume City once each in 2015, and fell to Ringwood by single digits in both their meetings, pushing the Hawks to within a basket in their first clash. They have a great mix of role players and share the load every week, with eight different players leading the scoring on different occasions so far this season. A dominant superstar, ala Colleen Planeta or Carley Mijovic, is lacking, but all the other tools are there, making the Boomers a dangerous proposition for opponents.
Southern Peninsula Sharks
The Sharks have enjoyed a brilliant debut season in State Championship, losing just five games all season and comfortably mixing it with the best sides. However, now their opponents know what to expect and Ella Hellessy will shoulder a bigger load on the offensive end while Chevannah Paalvast is away on New Zealand national team duty, making life a little tougher. Having a double chance will certainly help them cover that loss, and should they reach the third week of the playoffs then they will make their opposition, whoever that may be, very nervous. The Sharks don’t have much to lose given they have already well and truly exceeded expectations in 2015, and that alone means can’t be written off.
The Falcons entered the season boasting the most talented roster in the league, and while the loss of Tegan Cunningham through injury has seriously derailed their season, they still have arguably the biggest offensive weapon in the league in Carley Mijovic. Their form has dipped significantly in recent weeks and after finishing fifth they will have to do it the hard way with no home court advantage at any stage in the post-season. Having Mijovic means they can’t be dismissed as contenders and an elimination-style finals format in a close league will suit the Falcons.
State Championship Men
The State Championship men’s finals series will feature the top six teams doing battle for the title, and while it looks to be a race of three, it is shaping up as one of the most exciting finals series in recent times.
The Hawks have been the dominant side all season, going 23-1 in the regular season and will start red-hot favourites to take out another title in 2015. They have class all over the floor, with the likes of Nate Champion, Tate Unruh, Matt Fennell and Matt Snowball leading the way. Throw in Willie Weimer, Shaun Clarke and Nathan Truman and they are a formidable unit to face for any side, particularly in their own gym. Given they hold home-court throughout the finals, it looks like their title to lose, unless their opponents can find a way to stifle their red-hot offense for long enough to claim victory.
The Falcons will start from third but have perhaps the best chance of snatching the title from Ringwood’s grasp. They should easily brush past Bulleen in the first round before facing Corio Bay – a team they have the tools to knock over since recruiting Chris Cameron over the off-season. Usual suspects Ivan Platenik, Brad Kelleher and Chris Arkell will hold down the offensive end, and should they reach the grand final, they will fancy their chances of upsetting the Hawks, particularly given they are the only side to have beaten Ringwood this season.
The Cougars enter the post-season on the back of three-straight losses, which certainly isn’t ideal, but at their best they have proven capable of matching it with the best in the league. A nine-game winning streak during the regular season is impressive, especially when you consider how tough the league is. Boasting scoring superstar Kale Harrison and former NBL big man Axel Dench, the Cougars are always a chance of causing an upset or two. Hume City awaits them in an elimination final to kick things off, before a very tough clash with Ringwood in the grand final qualifier, which looks a tough path if they are to go all the way. Nonetheless, the Cougars loom as a dangerous proposition for their opponents throughout the playoffs and have the potential to cause some damage.
Corio Bay Stingrays
Corio Bay will head into the post-season as the second seed, giving them home-court until the grand final and every chance of reaching the decider once again. However, they will need to get through a tough semi-final series (almost certainly) against Waverley first, and despite having the advantage of two home games that will be a very tough ask. Any team boasting Casey Walker, Ma’Alo Hicks and Jason Reardon is going to fancy their chances of winning games against quality opponents, but they simply haven’t been the dominant side we have come to expect in recent years. On top of that, after knocking off Waverley at the semi-final stage two years running, the Falcons have gone out and recruited with the Stingrays in mind. It is still possible we will see the Stingrays in another grand final, but it is looking tougher this year than ever before.
Hume City Broncos
Hume City has enjoyed a successful 2015, winning 13 games, but with four quality sides above them, it is hard to see the Broncos advancing past the first round. If they were to upset the Cougars in their elimination final matchup, they would win a date with all-conquering Ringwood in the semi-finals, which is almost certainly going to end in defeat. The Broncos have been gallant all season behind experienced import duo Jermaine Maybank and Jamal Brown, but it is hard to see them making any serious inroads in August.
Like the Broncos, the Boomers will struggle to make a mark in the playoffs. After a strong 2014, the Boomers ended up falling over the line for a finals berth this season, finishing with a negative record and looking more like a group of individuals rather than a team for much of the second half of the year. A clash with Waverley should put their season to rest this weekend, and it could turn ugly if form against the top sides this season is anything to go by.
To find your local club’s fixtures and results, and to keep up to date with all the league news and information over the season, head to www.bigv.com.au or click here.