The New South Wales presence in SEABL has doubled this season, with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits joined by the Sydney Uni Sparks, a development program forming a pathway to the current WNBL champion Sydney Uni Flames. The Sparks feature four members of the Flames 2016/17 squad, with Shanae Greaves, Lara McSpadden, Tahlia Tupaea, and Susannah Walmsley providing some added experience to an otherwise young squad. The remainder of the Sparks roster is comprised of players out of the Flames academy program, with all players still in their teenage years and a couple still in high school.
Shanae Greaves is the only player with significant SEABL experience in the squad, with over 150 games in Australia’s premier winter league to her name. However, with Karen Dalton coaching the side and veterans Belinda Snell and Hayley Moffatt acting as assistant coaches, there is plenty of guidance for a young Sparks side being thrown in the deep end. The majority of the Sparks squad has never even played a Waratah Championship game, with Youth League the highest club level many of them have achieved. However, the majority of the squad have featured at a national championships in the last couple of years, with many outstanding performers.
Sydney Uni Sparks Junior National Championship Stats
|Beaumont, Natalia||2016 U18||NSW Metro||11.00||7.57||1.29|
|Calleia, Sherrie||2016 U18||NSW Metro||2.71||1.86||1.14|
|Carroll, Elle||2016 U18||NSW Metro||6.14||2.86||2.00|
|Castle, Katie||2016 U18||NSW Metro||4.14||3.43||2.71|
|Evans, Charlie||2015 U18||NSW Country||9.88||1.75||1.88|
|Matthews, Emily||2017 U20||NSW||7.00||1.60||1.20|
|McSpadden, Lara||2016 U18||NSW Country||12.62||6.62||1.50|
|Mocatta, Teaan||2016 U18||NSW Metro||6.14||5.14||0.86|
|Morrissey, Chloe||2015 U18||NSW Metro||5.33||3.11||1.00|
|Mundine, Tylah||2016 U18||NSW Metro||5.43||7.71||1.57|
|O’Hehir, Maddie||2016 U20||NSW||16.83||3.50||2.00|
Alongside the young starlets will be four members of the Sydney Uni Flames WNBL side, although Lara McSpadden and Tahlia Tupaea could be considered young starlets themselves. All four players featured for the Flames this season, with Tupaea and Shanae Greaves providing the most impact off the bench of the group.
Sydney Uni Sparks 2016/17 WNBL Stats
There is certainly plenty of talent in the Sparks’ squad, but once the season begins, it becomes a question of how well the young players can handle the jump to the second-highest level of basketball in Australia. However, at the end of the day, this program’s success will be measured more in the progression of players than the number in the wins column.
Meanwhile, down in Albury, there has been mass upheaval with several changes to the Lady Bandits squad. The side has lost 11 players, including Alex Ciabattoni, Ellie Junod and Haylee Lepaio from the ranks of local players, whilst it is also all change in terms of the team’s import players with Toccara Ross and Adijat Adams joining the Albury-Wodonga side.
Ross played college basketball at Iowa State, where the forward averaged 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in her junior season before injuries stifled her production for the remainder of her college career, which ended in 2009. Since that time, the American has played in Europe and South America as well as one previous SEABL season for the Hobart Chargers in 2011. Adams is slightly younger, having graduated from Biola University in 2014, where the 6’2” centre averaged over 16 points in each of her final two college seasons. Adams spent last season playing in Western Australia for Mandurah, where she starred for the Magic.
Five players do return, including the team’s spiritual leader Molly Rice, who was the team’s second-highest average scorer with 15.2 points per game. Rice and Stephanie Gorman, who averaged 9.7 points per game last season, will shoulder the majority of the scoring load alongside imports Adams and Ross.
The teams start their season playing each other in Albury on Saturday night, with early NSW bragging rights on the line. Albury-Wodonga will be eager to improve on 2016’s last place finish in the South conference, whilst the Sparks will be hoping to get their first win on the board as soon as possible to ease the pressure early on.