WNBL: Teams to fear, players to cheer

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We take a look at each team in the shortened competition and the players expected to star in a regular season which run from October until January next year.

ROUND ONE: Winners and grinners. Three minute wrap

BODY BLOW: Defending WNBL champs take a hit

The SWOOP teams guide to the 2017/2018 women’s national basketball league.

This year’s competition will see the return of a number of big names, including Liz Cambage.

This year’s competition will see the return of a number of big names, including Liz Cambage.Source:Getty Images

SYDNEY FLAMES

They’re back. Literally. Ten of the 12 players who took the Flames to the last WNBL crown.

And that includes their two powerhouse American imports Asia Taylor and Jen Hamson, the latter providing the height required to combat the likes of Liz Cambage and Suzy Batkovic.

Taylor, an All-Star Five last season who averaged 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, will be integral to the Flames’ success.

Missing are Leilani Mitchell and Lauren Nicholson with young gun Tahlia Tupaea expected to step up into a starring role this year when she returns from foot surgery, hopefully in December.

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Opals Katie Rae Ebzery is returning to the Flames after a season in Russia and is expected to be a major force for the side along with captain Belinda Snell..

No one is quite sure how mitigating the early season loss of Tupaea and the absence of Mitchell will be on the defending champions.

Belinda Snell on the run during last seasons Grand Final.

Belinda Snell on the run during last seasons Grand Final.Source:News Corp Australia

DANDENONG RANGERS

Last year’s runners-up are headed by their Opals trio Sara Blicavs, sister-in-law Steph Blicavs and Tessa Lavey, who has left Perth to join the Rangers.

But adding a different element will be Spanish Olympic captain Laia Palau who has signed on for her first WNBL season.’

Laia will make her WNBL debut with Dandenong after spending the majority of her career in Europe, winning five Spanish league titles in the Liga Femenina de Baloncesto and captaining the Spanish National Team to Olympic silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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The playmaking guard also led Spain to their silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

Other new faces include Carley Mijovic, Kayla Pedersen, Rebecca Pizzey, Kiera Rowe and Tayla Roberts.

The WNBL semi-final between the Dandenong Rangers and Perth Lynx last year.

The WNBL semi-final between the Dandenong Rangers and Perth Lynx last year.Source:News Corp Australia

PERTH LYNX

Perth Lynx have bolstered what was already a strong line-up with the signing of big-name WNBA guard Courtney Williams.

Williams comes to Australia off a standout year with the Connecticut Sun and should have a big impact on the side which finished last years comp in third place.

Her impressive stats include averaging 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 27 minutes per game as a starter, all while shooting 49.4 per cent from the field.

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Other big names for Lynx include star Sami Whitcomb, who averaged 24.15 points per game last season, Toni Farnworth, Alyce Kunek, Olivia Thompson and Kayla Standish.

This side, as usual, will be a major force in the WNBL after their third place finish last year.

The legendary Suzy Batkovic in action for the Townsville Fire against Bendigo Spirit last season.

The legendary Suzy Batkovic in action for the Townsville Fire against Bendigo Spirit last season.Source:News Corp Australia

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

Suzy Batkovic is, and will remain, the backbone of this team. And it’s one mighty good looking team for 2017/2018 season with Haylee Andrews, Darcee Garbin, Mia Murray, Kelly Wilson and Micaela Cocks all re-signing in the off-season.

Fire have boosted their arsenal with the recruitment of Laurin Mincy, a third-round selection by New York in the 2015 WNBA draft.

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Mincy is a six-foot guard who averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists during her time in Israel who who was signed by Seattle in 2016 before being waived.

Townsville are being talked about as one of the early favourites to claim the WNBL honours at the end of the shortened 2017/18 season.

Winners are grinners. The defending champion, the Sydney Uni Flames.

Winners are grinners. The defending champion, the Sydney Uni Flames.Source:News Corp Australia

CANBERRA CAPITALS

American basketballer Mistie Bass is expected to make a big impression for the Capitals with the WNBA title winner with Phoenix in 2014 and new mum playing her first season in Australia at age 33.

The Capitals, this season without Marianna Tolo, have also bought back a familiar face in seven-time WNBL championship winner and guard Natalie Hurst.

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And they have added class with the inclusion of Australian Opals star Rachel Jarry.

Opals-in-waiting Lauren Scherf and Eziyoda Magbegor and WNBA import Jordan Hooper have also signed up.

Canberra are shaping up as one of the most exciting teams in the comp with much interest surrounding how their young guns will perform.

Jennifier Hamson grabs a pass during the WNBL game between the Sydney Flames and the Canberra Capitals last year.

Jennifier Hamson grabs a pass during the WNBL game between the Sydney Flames and the Canberra Capitals last year.Source:News Corp Australia

BENDIGO SPIRIT

Opal and former MVP Kelsey Griffin is crucial to the success of Spirit but looks to have some good support in this role in 2017/2018.

US import Betnijah Laney has joined Spirit for the season and has plenty to prove.

Lanes tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last year and is keen to make a big impression now she is fully recovered.

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Another new face at the Spirit is US import and guard Rachel Banham from the Connecticut Suns.

But a strength of the side is the fact they have been able to retain the majority of their players from last season.

Sarah Blicavs of the Dandenong Rangers (left) and Liz Cambage at the WNBL launch.

Sarah Blicavs of the Dandenong Rangers (left) and Liz Cambage at the WNBL launch.Source:AAP

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

The name — or the player- doesn’t get much bigger in basketball. Liz Cambage. The biggest signing in the WNBL this season.

But it’s not a one-woman show with the Boomers providing plenty of backup for Cambage with fellow recruits Jenna O’Hea, Louella Tomlinson, Courtney Duever and New Zealand international Kalani Purcell headlining the overhauled team.

On paper the strongest team in the competition.

And because of this the Boomers have already been installed as one of the frontrunners for the 2017/18 crown after winning just five of their 24 games last season.

Kelsey Griffin from Bendigo Spirit and Abby Bishop from the Adelaide Lightning.

Kelsey Griffin from Bendigo Spirit and Abby Bishop from the Adelaide Lightning.Source:Getty Images

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

On a mission to improve on their disappointing performance in 2016/17, Adelaide has undergone a major overhaul.

But there are still some familiar faces.

Lightning MVP Laura Hodges has re-signed for another year and will join Olympian and former WNBL MVP Abby Bishop and Ruth Hamblin in the front court.

Bishop is playing in Lightning colours for the first time since 2012 with a goal to erase the memory of last years wooden spoon with a final spot this season

Last season Adelaide finished with an abysmal 3-21 win loss record.

The team has also recruited guard Nicole Seekamp and US star Natalie Novosel and snared the experienced Aimie Clydesdale from Dandenong.

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