WITH a string of rookie coaches across the board and most clubs undergoing significant roster changes, the Women’s SBL season for 2020 is shaping up as one of the hardest to predict as it approaches in a long time.
The Cockburn Cougars (Tyrone Thwaites), East Perth Eagles (Blake Srdarev) and Lakeside Lightning (Steve Bezant) are all coaching Women’s SBL teams in their own right for the first time in 2020.
Even reigning championship-winning coach from the Rockingham Flames Keegan Crawford is preparing for his first full season in charge after taking over mid-season as a 23-year-old in 2019 and leading his club to the title in stunning fashion.
The season is now under a month away beginning on Friday March 20 with the Perth Redbacks hosting the Perry Lakes Hawks, and the East Perth Eagles facing the Mandurah Magic.
Round 1 will then continue on Saturday night with the Joondalup Wolves playing the Hawks, the Magic backing up against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, the Lakeside Lightning hosting the South West Slammers, and the Rockingham Flames opening their championship defence against the Redbacks.
The 2019 season was a remarkable one for the Rockingham Flames. But once Crawford took over as coach and Alex Ciabattoni settled in as point guard, they really got rolling and ended up on a nine-game winning streak culminating in the Grand Final win over the Warwick Senators.
Now from that team, the Flames have suffered big losses in the form of Maddie Allen, Darcee Garbin and Ella Kennedy. But Ciabattoni is returning as is Christina Boag and with Danielle McCray newly signed, Crawford has plenty to work with again in his title defence as a 24-year-old coach.
There were no signs from the Senators of what was to come with their Grand Final horror show last year. They did storm into the Grand Final sweeping Willetton and Lakeside, but couldn’t quite match Rockingham on the big stage.
But Dion Dagostino is in his second season in charge now and with two new imports Makailah Dyer and Jasmine Williams, there’s no reason to suggest the Senators won’t again be a force to be reckoned with.
Dyer is a proven commodity coming off a brilliant season with the Slammers so if Williams can hold her own, depth will again be a strength for Dagostino to work with.
Craig Watts did an impressive job of righting the ship mid-season for the Mandurah Magic last year to get them to the quarter finals from second position before losing to the Flames, and now he again appears to have a strong group at his disposal entering his second season.
The Magic welcome back superstar guard Anita Brown while also bringing in new import Nyilah Jamison-Myers. Then with the core returning led by Casey Mihovilovich, Bree and Emma Klasztorny, Carly Boag and company, they’ll again be tough to stop.
It’s the start of a new era at the Lakeside Lightning with the departure of 2018 championship-winning coach Craig Mansfield who again took them to a regular season title and semi-final appearance in 2019.
Steve Bezant has taken over as coach and there’s some player changes too including the arrival of Candice White and Emilee Tahata, and departures of GeAnna Lualu-Summers and Hannah Stewart, and potentially some other experienced stalwarts.
The Joondalup Wolves had quite the rollercoaster ride in the first season under Charles Nix in 2019 ending with them losing in the quarter finals to the Perry Lakes Hawks.
They were rolling mid-season but then Kayla Steindl fell pregnant, Amy Kidner injured her knee and things never quite fully got going again.
But there is every sign they will be a strong outfit again in 2020 with the signing of Brittany Hodges, return of new mother Steindl and with another recent mother, Shani Caldwell also playing again. The arrival of Redbacks pair Nes’eya Williams and Alix Hayward, and Hannah King from the Suns add further depth too.
Perry Lakes looked unstoppable by the time they won the last six games of the regular season and then swept the Lady Wolfpack in the first round. But they came up against a Rockingham team in the semi finals that refused to be denied.
Deanna Smith is back again as coach and has brought back to the league Nici Gilday who had a brilliant season in 2017 as part of the Mandurah team that Perry Lakes beat in the Grand Final.
The Hawks have also added Julie Spencer as the second import and still have Nat Burton coming back again, but replacing Megan McKay will take some doing along with experienced guards Rebecca Benson and Gabby O’Sullivan.
Willetton made another finals appearance in 2019 under Simon Parker only to lose to the Senators in the first round. But there’s plenty of excitement around the Tigers now in 2020 as they unveil their brand new, redeveloped Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Parker is back again as coach too and already the addition of Paige Cashin looks a good one with more player announcements to come.
The Eastern Suns were the other team to take part in the finals of 2019 with Tom Knowles again doing an impressive job to get his team there.
Now coming into 2020, they have already announced the signing of new import Maria Blazejewski with Beige Harris and Sarah Lakay coming across from the Eagles and Slammers respectively. Replacing Jennie Rintala and Katie Yohn will take some work though.
The Perth Redbacks were a team that missed the playoffs desperate to get back in there in 2020 in Craig Allen’s second season as coach.
They will have a vastly different looking team with the arrival of last year’s Grand Final MVP Maddie Allen to lead that charge alongside her Perth Lynx WNBL teammate Lauren Mansfield.
The Slammers only fell out of playoff contention late in 2019 as their depth was tested but coach Nathan Grover will look to change that this season.
They have retained big Brittni Montgomery, added Mari Stewart along with the experienced Vanessa Michael but if Kate Fielding and Courtney Bayliss aren’t playing, they’ll be tough to cover.
The Cockburn Cougars will attempt to rise up the ladder again in 2020 with club general manager Tyrone Thwaites taking over as coach. They’ve retained the services of Alina Hartmann and brought in a second import Alex Wittinger along with Tahlia Fejo, so that’s plenty of talent to work with.
Then there is the East Perth Eagles who have won just one of their last 54 matches but they have a new coach in Blake Srdarev, and some impressive new signings.
Sara Dickey, Alicia Carline, Jade Gowland, Fiona Madden, Opal Mader, BJ Moyes, Gemma Dix, Nadia Parora and Pearl Coppin will all hope to combine to make the Eagles a vastly more competitive outfit in 2020.
Coach: Tyrone Thwaites (1st season)
Last year: 5-17 (12th)
In: Alex Wittinger (restricted), Tahlia Fejo, Jesni Cooper, Emma Burke, Mary Burke
Out: Vanessa Michael, Kisha Lee
AUS EAST PERTH EAGLES
Coach: Blake Srdarev (1st season)
Last year: 1-21 (wooden spoon)
In: Sara Dickey (restricted), Alicia Carline, Jade Gowland, Fiona Madden, Opal Mader, BJ Moyes, Gemma Dix, Nadia Parora, Pearl Coppin
Out: Samantha Jackson, Jaymie Symons, Janee Johnson, Fiona Heart, Sarah Lakay
CHAMBERS FRANKLYN CITY OF JOONDALUP WOLVES
Coach: Charles Nix (2nd season)
Last year: 14-8 (lost quarter finals)
In: Brittany Hodges (restricted), Shani Caldwell, Alix Hayward, Nes’eya Williams, Hannah King
Out: Jasmine Martin, Andee Ritter
KALAMUNDA EASTERN SUNS
Coach: Tom Knowles (4th season)
Last year: 11-11 (lost quarter finals)
In: Maria Blazejewski (restricted), Beige Harris, Lizel Buckley, Sarah Lakay
Out: Hannah King, Jennie Rintala, Katie Yohn, Tarryn McPherson, Carla Drennan
Coach: Steve Bezant (1st season)
Last year: 16-6 (lost semi finals)
In: Candice White (restricted), Emilee Tahata
Out: GeAnna Lualu-Summers, Hannah Stewart, Jess Van Schie, Tiahrn Flynn
CACHET HOMES MANDURAH MAGIC
Coach: Craig Watts (2nd season)
Last year: 15-7 (lost quarter finals)
In: Nyilah Jamison-Myers (restricted), Anita Brown (restricted), Kelly Borthwick, Angelina Dimasi
Out: Delany Junkermeir, Ashlee Norman, Taylor Brown, Jemma Gatti, Ash Sidebottom
PERRY LAKES HAWKS
Coach: Deanna Smith (4th season)
Last year: 13-9 (lost semi finals)
In: Nici Gilday (restricted), Julie Spencer (restricted), Maddy Dennis, Madeline English, Kate Williams
Out: Jamie Cherry, Sam Ashby, Tia Morgan, Megan McKay, Rebecca Benson, Gabby O’Sullivan
TEXTURE WA PERTH REDBACKS
Coach: Craig Allen (2nd season)
Last year: 9-13 (9th)
In: Maddie Allen, Raya Thompson, Briana Bailey, Brooke Rebel, Brooke Malone, McKaylah Pomare, Shenae Hartree
Out: Rosie Deegan, Alix Hayward, Nes’eya Williams, Morgan Pullins, Jess Hughes, Kate Campbell, Pearl Coppin, Nadia Parora, Taylor Roberts
SINCLAIR MCDONALD’S ROCKINGHAM FLAMES
Coach: Keegan Crawford (2nd season)
Last year: 13-9 (Champions)
In: Danielle McCray (restricted), Courtney Stothard, Chelsea Roberts, Dena English,
Out: Maddie Allen, Darcee Garbin, Ella Kennedy, Jesni Cooper, Janelle Adams,
PRINT SYNC SOUTH WEST SLAMMERS
Coach: Nathan Grover (2nd season)
Last year: 8-14 (10th)
In: Mari Stewart (restricted), Tea Charlton, Ashlee Norman, Vanessa Michael,
Out: Makailah Dyer, Jasmine Barrett, Aimee Coles, Cian Parsons, Kate Fielding, Courtney Bayliss
BETHANIE WARWICK SENATORS
Coach: Dion Dagostino (2nd season)
Last year: 14-8 (runner-up)
In: Makailah Dyer (restricted), Jasmine Williams (restricted), Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard
Out: Bianca Villegas, Samaria Howard, Emma Burke, Brooke Rebel, Georgina Harding, Maddison Hooper
ZAMBRERO WILLETTON TIGERS
Coach: Simon Parker (7th season)
Last year: 13-9 (lost quarter finals)
In: Paige Cashin (restricted)
Out: Laina Snyder, Wendi Bibbins
*All player in and out information based on what has been provided to the SBL by clubs