WNBL Preliminary Final: An all Queensland affair
The 2015/16 WNBL Preliminary Final is set to be an all Queensland affair, as the reigning champions JCU Townsville Fire battle it out against a team that didn’t even exist last year, the South East Queensland Stars (SEQ).
Both teams are full of talent, with current Opals squad members, WNBA imports and a good mix of experienced and youthful WNBL stars filling the rosters and playing their roles. SEQ have won the head-to-head battle against Townsville throughout the season 2 wins to 1, but it’s hard to write off the team that has managed to cement itself in every grand final for the past 3 years.
Rebecca Allen | Credit: Michelle Couling Photography
Townsville finished on top of the ladder with the most wins of the season. It’s not surprising when they have some of the Opal’s most important players roaming the key for them, with Suzy Batkovic and Cayla George wreaking havoc for opposition teams. Opal’s veteran Batkovic is a hot favourite to take out the MVP for the league, thriving in big games. She can provide the spark for the Fire, whether it’s from the three-point area or inside the paint.
The Fire has promised physicality this weekend, with Mia Murray stressing the importance of lifting their intensity after their semi-final loss to Perth. She made it clear in an interview with the Townsville Bulletin that, “We need to get a bit of mongrel in us.” Winning the MVP in last years grand final, Murray’s ability to step up in big games is also what makes her one of the most dangerous factors for SEQ.
However SEQ have shown they cannot be underestimated, after going into liquidation over four weeks ago the team has soldiered on with eight rostered players and an interim coach. The true underdogs of the competition are playing each game like it’s their last, with a bit of fun and joy refreshingly brought back into the game. Only playing 7 players of their 8 in last week’s semi-final win over Dandenong, the likes of Rachel Jarry, Rebecca Allen and Jordan Hooper have all had to take on different playing roles to compensate for a season-ending injury to vital point guard Lauren Mansfield.
Talking in a press conference to the WNBL following the semi-final clash with Dandenong, coach Megan Thompson described the game as, “The story of their last four weeks.”
“Nothing is given to us, we have to earn it, to go and get it and that’s exactly what the girls did,” Thompson further added.
There’s enough reason’s to side with either team here in this one. SEQ’s recent run and never say die attitude is holding them in good stead, even down to the very last seconds of a game (58 to be exact against Dandenong in their semi-final). The Fire’s position as the number one team can’t be ignored, and their finals experience and big game players will be important in controlling and manipulating the play. That said, this game is definitely going down to the wire.
Catch all the action from the Townsville RSL Stadium commencing from 3:00pm local time Sunday, or watch live via the WNBL YouTube channel. For more information about Sunday's preliminary final, head to wnbl.com.au.