With just one round remaining in the 2020 WNBL regular season, the second placed Deakin Melbourne Boomers have received a late jolt with the immediate release of 2016/17 WNBL Rookie of the Year Monique Conti.
The pint-sized point guard who has been splitting her time between WNBL, 3x3 and AFL Women's commitments over recent years had requested an immediate release from the Boomers to pursue her AFLW career with the Richmond Tigers.
Currently in the third season of a four-year deal with the Boomers, Roy Ward of The Age reports that while the contract allowed her to play footy during the off-season, she couldn't play AFLW until her WNBL commitments ended.
The Boomers are expected to make a deep run in the WNBL playoffs, with the best-of-three semi-final series tipping off on 18 February, while a potential grand final series for the Boomers scheduled from 1 - 8 March. With Richmond's AFLW season kicking off on 7 February against Carlton, Conti has essentially turned her back on the Melbourne Boomers to focus on her football career.
According to the official release, the Boomers have agreed to release Conti from her contract effective immediately, resulting in the backup point guard missing the final round of the WNBL season.
“Monique is an exceptional athlete; we value her contribution and commitment to the club and equally we have supported her as a dual athlete since she joined us as a 16-year-old more than three years ago,” said Boomers General Manager Christy Collier in a statement.
“Monique has decided to prioritise her AFLW career, which the club accepts and wishes her all the best for the future.
“With our team having qualified for our third consecutive finals campaign this season, we are very confident our members and fans will see continued success in the coming weeks commencing with our game on Saturday against Perth.”
After four years with the Boomers which followed a glittering junior career that included a gold medal for the Sapphires at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship where she was named to the All-Star Five, Conti admitted it was a difficult decision to walk away from the Boomers.
“I’d like to thank the Boomers for all their support over the years, I wish them all the best for the rest of the season,” said Conti in the statement.
Conti had been averaging just 11.2 minutes across 19 games played this season, posting 2.6 points and 1.7 assists while shooting just 34.5% from the field. With star import guard Lindsay Allen having been out injured and a week by week proposition, Conti's departure is untimely for the Boomers.
The Deakin Melbourne Boomers conclude the regular season with a home game against the Perth Lynx on Saturday night at the State Basketball Centre in a game that will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo. If the University of Canberra Capitals fall to the Adelaide Lightning, the Boomers can lock up second place with a victory against the Lynx.
While Conti's future at WNBL level is now in question, she remains a dual sport athlete having signed to play for the Melbourne Tigers in NBL1 South for 2020.