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2018 Premier 1 Preview

Free up your Wednesday nights because Premier 1 basketball is back!

After consulting coaches, keeping an ear to the street for player movement and Prem 1 pickups, here are our predictions for the 2018.

Women’s

6th – Flames
Gungahlin Flames will field their first Premier 1 team in club history – a huge achievement for a rapidly growing new club. Like any team moving up a division, it will likely be a tough introduction to Canberra basketball’s top comp, as Flames field a roster with primarily Prem 2 experience. The addition of Tara Hay returning to Premier 1 hoops after having a baby brings much needed elite level experience, having played for the Canberra Capitals and Capitals Academy. Katie Williams’ move to the Flames from Vikings adds a strong outside scoring option, while Radford junior and ACT rep, Sophie McGready, will play her first full season in women’s, bringing intensity and raw talent to the team. It will be an exciting year for Flames as they look to upset opponents each Wednesday, and write a new chapter in their club’s history books.

5th – Wests
With a 5-12 record in 2017, Wests were up and down week-to-week earning wins against the mid-lower teams on the table, but struggling to compete with Vikings and Dodgers. This season, the loss of Kate Rowe and her Premier 1 experience due to expecting her second baby, will be tough to replace in a young group. Wests have moved ACT U18’s young gun, Clare Newton, up from Premier 2 along with Mary Mayen and Eloise Good. Coach Kate Tominac says she’s hopeful former Canberra Capitals star, Michelle Cosier, may don the sky blue after healing an injured hammy, but until then Caps Academy combo, Chloe Tugliach and Mickie Williams will try to keep Wests’ finals hopes alive. The team will be quick up the court and look to tough defence and team chemistry to kick off 2018.

4th – Norths
Norths’ exciting young core of Callie Bourne, Caity Rowe and Emma Rowcliffe return to the court in 2018. The Canberra Caps Academy trio have just returned from U20 Nationals where all three enjoyed a successful tournament. U20’s teammates Bec Haisman and Georgia Noack will join Norths’ Premier 1 side this season, creating a tight defensive unit, capable of racing out in transition. The backcourt combo of Rowe and Bourne is as deadly as any in Prem 1, with Rowcliffe’s inside touch creating chaos for opposing coaches. Expect Norths to fair well in the regular season, however the likely loss of Bourne to the US college season will be tough to overcome in finals.

2017 Premier 1 MVP Michelle Patt / Photo by Rosevear Photography

3rd – Rats
Rats have returned several key players in dual MVP, Michelle Patt, U20’s ACT rep, Nikki Worner, U18’s NSW Country rep, Sarah Cooper, and Premier 1 veteran, Jo Sykes. Taking just two wins in 2017, the club have looked to a combination of young talent from their successful juniors program, and experienced veterans returning to Canberra’s courts. Kassidy Fox, Natasha Lyall, Maddy Wheatley and Maddy Hunt will make the jump from U19’s to women’s this season, with the upcoming U18’s Nationals sure to accelerate their development. Adding experience to their exciting youth, Rats have recruited Kobi Fogg (nee Pearce) who returns to basketball after a number of years. Kobi was an outstanding junior for the ACT and was an ACT Academy of Sport scholarship holder, which was the forerunner for the current Caps Academy. There are also rumours that Kellie Henning (nee Abrams) may make a return to the club, bringing more than 200 WNBL games experience. The potential combo of Patt and Henning would likely be unstoppable in Premier 1, so new coach, Michael Haynes, will no doubt be crossing his fingers awaiting a response. Haynes says Rats will play to their strengths and teams can expect an aggressive and up tempo style of play.

2nd – Vikings
Vikings return a strong core who took the minor premiership in 2017. Julie Ticehurst, Ashleigh Evans, Tegan Ketels, and Sophie Anderson lit up opponents from deep, while Molly McPhee was absolutely unstoppable in the paint, creating the perfect inside-out offence. Coach Brian Demmery will look forward to the mid-season return of former Caps Academy and Canberra Nationals players, Abbie Davis and Shelley West – both expecting kids – to round out his side in time for finals. Vikings will also hope the addition of former QBL player, Alinta Batten, will be enough to rectify an 85-59 loss in the grand final. There is definitely a feeling of unfinished business, so expect Vikings to play with a chip on their shoulder this season.

1st – Dodgers
After winning their fourth Prem 1 championship in five years last season, Dodgers will be down a few key pieces in 2018. Former UC Caps guard and long-time Premier 1 standout, Alice Coddington, has headed overseas, while Carlie Smith and Kris Langhorn are playing QBL on the Sunshine Coast. Even without three of Prem 1’s top talents over the past five years, Dodgers remain clear favourites in 2018. Caps Academy captain, Sarah McAppion, will lead from the front again in a team of familiar faces. Consistency has been the key to creating a successful program and coach Rob Parker expects to return eight players from last season. Caps Academy forward Rosie Schweizer has a year of SEABL experience under her belt after debuting at just 16, while new Caps Academy forward, Linn Jerrhage, from Sweden will suit up in red and black. Parker says he is also hopeful UC Capitals vice-captain Kate Gaze will make her Dodgers debut as she stays in Canberra to help lead the Caps Academy this SEABL season. Add in former Caps Academy wing, Jennifer Crewdson, who has returned from overseas and Dodgers should be considered top prospect for the 2018 title.

Men’s
The Men’s Premier 1 competition has seen some big changes in personnel heading into the 2018 season. The addition of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (COE) to the competition adds another top notch squad to the comp, but re-jigs other club’s lineups. It should be noted, the COE are not eligible for finals, but their points will count (ex. if the COE finish first, teams 2-5 will qualify for finals).

6th – Norths
It will be a tough rebuilding year for Norths. The losses of COE stud Tamuri Wigness, former NBL player Dan Jackson (AKA the Grey Mumba), and Talor Goodall will be irreplaceable in a team that already struggled in 2017. But with all struggles come opportunities. Young bucks Harry Matthew, John Mapiou and Deng Diing will all make their Premier 1 debuts as an exciting, athletic unit who will get up and down the floor in a hurry. Prem 1 veteran, Andrew Martin, and Ryan Armstrong will be two of the only returning players from last season and will need to shoulder the scoring load while mentoring the club’s youth.

5th – Dodgers
An up-and-down Dodgers outfit in 2017 competed with the comp’s best clubs at times while struggling other nights, finishing the season 5-17. This season, the losses of star point guard, Jesse Wilesmith and centre Nathan Smith will leave the team in serious trouble. Wilesmith’s ability to harness the flow of the offence was often the difference in Dodgers’ level of play, so his move to Melbourne, and Smith’s pursuit of 1st grade footy will be tough to overcome. Gunners Academy Captain, Dylan Simpson, and former Gunner, Josh Hathaway will look to lead the way and bring the best out of their group, but it could be a long season for Dodgers men’s side.

2017 Premier 1 MVP Brody Doran / Photo by Rosevear Photography

4th – Rats
Rats took the biggest hit from the COE’s entrance to Premier 1, losing multiple key players, but new coach Cal Bruton still has some firepower to work with. The return of Gunners guard, Jarrod Phillips to Rats, combined with Will Cooper’s ability to light it up from outside provides Rats a chance to put points on the board in a hurry. Add in Gunners forward Adam Gavranich and 208-centimeter centre, Jack Braddock, who will continue to improve with SEABL experience. The return of Mitch and Nate Brown from college mid-season may add some much needed wins to qualify for finals, but they will likely lose the Brown brothers prior to playoffs. The biggest loss for Rats this season, is likely Gunners Academy forward, Jordan Phillips, who moved interstate for work. Phillips’ well-rounded game made him the ultimate “glue guy” for Rats last season, defending top scorers, grabbing boards, and hitting big-time jump shots. If Rats can grow strong team chemistry early in the season, look for them to compete with anyone and find themselves in the finals.

3rd – Ramblers
A tough semi-finals loss to Vikings for the second straight year showed Ramblers still had some work to do to compete with the top two teams. Losing point guard James Martin to University in Melbourne and centre Jonathan O’Bannon to work commitments will be tough to replace, but Ramblers have brought in reinforcements. The return of former ACT junior standout, Peter Edwards, brings speed and full-court pressure to the point guard position, while former Dodgers guard, Mitch Mcgee, adds a scoring punch. Add in a wealth of experience from long-time Rambler and former Gunners guard, Ant Arena, to help steady the ship. The returning core of Gunners forward, Tom Commins, Gunners Academy high-flyer, Tristan Scotcher, Tim Hewitt, Lachlan Ross, and Dean Powell provides a balanced offence able to match up against the top teams and score the ball from inside and out. In what will likely be a top-heavy competition this season, Ramblers coach Pierre Johannessen says he’s confident his side will match it with Premier 1’s best.

2nd – Vikings
A grand final loss to Wests in 2017 was not part of the plan for the back-to-back champions who dropped just one game in the regular season. But Vikings have added CPL stud, Harley Pupeke, and former TSC guard Jarrod Hampton to bolster an already blazing lineup. Gunners point guard Reece Kaye leads an uptempo lineup of shooters, athletic bigs, and lockdown defenders. The 2017 scoring champ, Evan Fowler, and former Gunners guard, Shaun Mills, are two of the top three point specialists in the comp, while Gunners big Glenn Morison and former Gunner Stephen Rowe form the largest front court in Premier basketball. Star guard James Toohey will rejoin Vikings mid-season, but head back to college along with Morison in August, which may cost the ‘Kings in crunch time. However, coach Pete Herak may have a pair of aces up his sleeve with Iain Morison and Tad Dufelmeier graduating from college. Should Dufelmeier and Morison end up in the red and grey together, look out everybody else.

1st – Wests
Wests may not have been the favourite last season, but Coach of the Year Tony Plunkett got the very best out of his boys when it counted. Upsetting a 20-1 Vikings side in the Premier 1 final with that stifling sky blue defence their club is known for, the Magpies found themselves back on top after two years finishing second best. This season, Wests have lost Gunners MVP, Ben Allen, and the versatile veteran, Nick Dewey, leaving two big holes to fill. In saying this, there was no shortage of talent coming through the ranks as Prem 2 MVP Pat Adams and Gunners Academy point guard, Jarrod Fenfick step into the roster. Returning Prem 1 MVP Brody Doran, former Gunners Isaac Plunkett, Andrew Murphy, Sam Adams, and Jarryd Heywood creates a strong, talented core, with the ability to play more “small ball” getting out in transition and stretching the defence. Despite Brody Doran starting the season in a face mask – curtesy of a broken nose sustained at U20’s Nationals – expect him to be a force this Premier 1 season. While there isn’t a clear favourite in the men’s comp, Wests continuity in personal paired with their combination of experience and exciting young potential has snatched them top spot in the pre-season rankings.

Who did we miss and who’s your pick for the Premier 1 title this season?

We want to hear your thoughts on Basketball ACT’s Facebook page!

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