Youthful Blues take aim at visiting Falcons in NBL1 round 1
The Powerade Frankston Blues will tip-off the inaugural 2019 NBL1 season by hosting the Waverley Falcons on Saturday night.
After a difficult start to the 2018 SEABL season in which they endured an 11-game losing streak to open, the Blues will look to make a positive start under new first-year head coach Jess May. May has been able to return a number of key pieces from 2018 while increasing the overall depth of the roster for their 2019 campaign.
Hometown hero Steph Reid returns after a debut WNBL season with the Dandenong Rangers, once again teaming with promising forwards Milica Ivanov and Tori Jackson, but also 17-year old guard Kassie Boorer who showed encouraging signs last year. Added to that youthful core are Saraid Taylor, a team-mate of Reid’s during the 2018/19 WNBL season with the Rangers, and former Kilsyth Cobra Taylor Lee. After a stellar collegiate career at Buffalo, Courtney Wilkins will return home to the Blues.
Wilkins’ addition will actually make it three Buffalo alumni on the roster for 2019, with sharpshooting import guard JoAnna Smith also expected to feature prominently in 2019.
While Reid, Smith, Taylor, Lee and Wilkins are likely to play leading roles in 2019, they will be complemented by the return of star forward Shereesha Richards. As 2018 Blues MVP, Richards returns as the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and dominant presence in the paint and will once again cause headaches for opposition coaches.
Import Smith is in essence a direct replacement for Stacey Barr, with the former Buffalo star looking forward to reuniting with Reid in the back court, one that is likely to terrorise opponents in 2019. Together with Lee, May could opt to run with a three-guard lineup at times, and especially until Richards is able to join the roster once her playing commitments in Spain are completed.
While Richards’ absence will be hard to cover, May has Taylor, Tegan Fowler and Gabby Tarabolsi she can use in the front court, with Taylor’s versatility expected to be highly valued. However she could well to turn to veteran centre Fowler to help provide some valuable minutes to clog up the paint until Richards is able to join the team. Fowler’s size and experience should be a valuable addition to what is a very young Blues roster, with her off-court presence set be be of utmost importance.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Waverley duo Kelly Bowen and Carley Mijovic when they arrive at Frankston for round 1 clash, both having pulled on a Blues jersey in recent times. WNBL star Mijovic is the centrepiece of head coach Elias Palioyiannis’ Falcons side, which also boasts veteran WNBL forward and AFLW player Tegan Cunningham.
Waverley makes the step up to NBL1 following a highly success reign in the Big V State Championship division. Like the Blues, Waverley boast a talented and skilled lineup, but with arguably far more experience. Jaclyn Vanderzaag and Jess Bygate are quality players, and when paired with Bowen, Mijovic, Cunningham, Renae Mokrzyck and Lisa Ewin, they have a core group that will provide a stern test in the opening round of the season for the youthful Blues.
The Powerade Frankston Blues take on the Waverley Falcons in round 1 of the 2019 NBL1 season at home this Saturday, 30 March 2019 as part of a double-header with the men. The women’s game tips off at 5:30pm at Frankston Stadium, which will also be streamed LIVE on the NBL’s YouTube channel accessible via the game centre link below.