Tag: UC Capitals

2020 WNBL Round 3 weekend preview: Cairns hub to provide Top 4 clashes in huge round of action

THREE of the top four sides will battle it out in Cairns this weekend starting today to assert dominance on the rest of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) competition. The second placed Adelaide Lightning will take on the fourth placed Southside Flyers, while the Flyers will also lock horns with the third placed Townsville Fire. The Fire also take on Sydney Uni Flames who lock horns with the Lightning today, while in Townsville, it looks to be a more one-sided contest as the top-against-bottom clash between the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Bendigo Spirit takes place. Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx – who played two and three games respectively during the week – will have a well-earned break over the weekend.

Cairns hub:

Townsville Fire vs. Southside Flyers
Adelaide Lightning vs. Sydney Uni Flames
Adelaide Lightning vs. Southside Flyers
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Townsville Fire

The Cairns hub is the place to be this weekend when three genuine contenders and a team capable of causing an upset on its day will provide spectators with four tightly contested matches. The Lightning suffered their first loss of the season earlier in the round, but sit at a 3-1 record and are technically ahead of their opponents Southside Flyers based on less losses, with the Flyers holding a 5-2 record. The Lightning also take on the 2-4 Flames who need to win to keep in touch with the top four, while Townsville Fire have a massive opportunity to grab second overall spot if they can down the Flyers and Flames.

This weekend will be a litmus test for the Fire who come up against the Flyers in the first game today. Last time these teams met, the Flyers were just too strong, winning 101-89 and the class of their Opal-littered starting five (and bench) proved too much for the young Fire outfit. Shyla Heal gets better each game and is a damaging two-way guard in the competition, averaging 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game, teaming up well with Lauren Nicholson (19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists). Megan McKay has a massive job in the center position against Liz Cambage, with McKay averaging 6.3 points and 7.2 rebounds compared to Cambage’s 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. The latter’s long reach and size allows her to average more than two blocks a game to deny opposition shooters.

The speed at which Townsville can run the floor is a way to get around the Flyers’ bigs with Zitina Aokuso (9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals) also likely to have a crack at Cambage and fellow dominant big, Sara Blicavs (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals). The back court combination of Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (9.4 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds) up against Heal and Nicholson will be fascinating, while Jenna O’Hea (10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals) is a real strong contributor every single game for the Flyers.

Looking at the two other teams that will face off tonight and then switch opponents tomorrow, the Lightning will be keen to create separation on the Flames with an important win. After a shocking 40-point loss to Melbourne Boomers after an eight-day break, the Lightning bounced back with a 40-point win of their own against Bendigo Spirit. Taking out the terrible defeat to Melbourne – which could come with an asterisk considering what the Lightning had to go through – one could hardly fault them this season, and honestly they could win both games, but the Flames is a must-win contest. The Flyers will be a lot tougher and the Lightning will need to be at their best, but it is possible. For the Flames, to realistically stay in the hunt for finals they need to win both games, and the Lightning one looms as the potential, though they got within three points of Townsville last match out.

The Lightning have a nice balance of players across the court, and some solid depth coming off the bench. Steph Talbot has been the most dominant player thus far, averaging a double-double of 22.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. She has been deadly from the field with 49 per cent of her attempts going in, and an 84 per cent strike rate from the charity stripe. Likewise, Chelsea Brook (8.3 points. 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists) has provided strength off the boards with former Flyers five, Louella Tomlinson impacting off the bench thanks to 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. The latter pair will need to be at their best to tag-team the influence of Lauren Scherf who gets better with every passing week, putting up 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Natalie Burton and Carly Boag share the minutes in the other big spot combining for 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.

In the back court, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have continued their Perth Lynx partnership to the eastern side of the country, both averaging more than 11 points per game, with Schwagmeyer being a key playmaker with 4.8 rebounds 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals and Mansfield not far behind leading the assists with 5.2, as well as 2.2 rebounds. The backcourt matchups will be a little different to 12 months ago, with former Bendigo talent Abigail Wehrung and ex-Sydney Uni guard Alex Wilson taking on the Lynx duo. Wilson has been a star with the Lightning, putting up 15.8 points 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals across the season thus far, while Wehrung has managed 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Marena Whittle is another inclusion to the Lightning program this year, and will face off against her ex-Perth teammates, averaging 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 2020.

Townsville hub:

Bendigo Spirit vs. UC Capitals

Having been the main hub all season, Townsville just hosts the one game this weekend and it is the two teams from opposite sides of the ladder. While Bendigo will hope to cause the upset of the season, it is hard to see them breaking the six-game winning streak of the Capitals who have now beaten everybody except the Lightning thus far this season. The last time these teams played was to kick off Round 2, and the Capitals won by a comfortable 20 points, 76-56. The issue with the Spirit is the fact that they have struggled to score and restrict their opponents, averaging 65.6 points per game, whilst the Capitals – a strong defensive side – have put up 75.7 points. On the defensive end, the Capitals are far and away the best team, conceding just 66.1 points, while the Spirit have allowed a whopping 90.7 points per game.

There are plenty of reasons for their respective seasons, with the Spirit having quite a young side, and a number of inclusions, whilst the Capitals have gained more experienced talent, and have the runs on the board as a successful unit and of course, back-to-back premierships. The Capitals have also seen the emergence of a number of younger stars who have thrived off the no-import rule. Maddison Rocci has been impressive with her long-range shooting, putting up 16.1 points 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals as an all-round performer. Both her and Jade Melbourne (9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists) in the backcourt have forced teams to be wary of them and therefore split the load amongst them and their highly capped teammates.

Co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Kelsey Griffin (11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) have been brilliantly managed and will be raring to go at the pointy end of the season, while it is hard not to include the other bigs in Keely Froling (10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Mikaela Ruef (8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds), contributing to the best rebounding side in the competition. The Spirit have had the two standout performers in Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey who have done everything they can this season putting up 34.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists between them. Ernst will have her hands full against the bigs, but will hopefully have some support from an improving Mary Goulding (7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals), while Jennie Rintala (5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds) has been the next biggest contributor in the back court with Lavey.

It will take a special effort for the Spirit to get up, but stranger things have happened in basketball. Expect the Capitals to be just too strong though, and they are genuine title contenders for their third straight flag.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Capitals survive Lynx scare to post narrow win

REIGNING back-to-back premiers University of Canberra (UC) Capitals have made it six wins on the trot, but not without a scare from Perth Lynx in Cairns last night. The Capitals, who managed to dispatch title favourites Southside Flyers easier than many anticipated, had a huge fight on their hands against the lowly ranked Lynx outfit, pushing them all the way and only falling three points short by the final buzzer, 73-70.

In a match that proved to have plenty of momentum swings as the Capitals played their second match in four days, and the Lynx their third in what was a heavy schedule for the teams, both left nothing out on the court in pursuit of victory. It was the favourites who tipped off the season in style with a strong first term to race away to a 28-19 lead and open up an advantage that looked like it could well be a one-side contest.

The second quarter could not have been any different as the Lynx stunner the Capitals, piling on 24 points and restricting the free-flowing Capitals to just 11, to hit the front by four points at the main break. Having only won one game for the season thus far, Perth was proving it could compete with the best, and even when the Capitals threw everything at them in the third, they could only claw back the deficit to level the scores at 55-apiece heading into the final quarter.

Despite the momentum swinging back in the Capitals’ favour, it was the Lynx who scored 10 of the first 13 points in the final term to race out to a 65-58 lead with five minutes to play. Enter Maddison Rocci. The talented up-and-comer managed back-to-back layups to draw her side within three points, then a couple of long-range jumpers from Kayla Steindl that missed saw teenager Jade Melbourne win the defensive rebound and the Capitals worked the ball down to co-captain Kelsey Griffin who nailed the turnaround jumper.

Their lead cut to just one point, Alex Ciabattoni found Darcee Garbin for a shot and the talented former Townsville Fire shooter made no mistake. But a contact came from Tahlia Tupaea and Garbin headed to the charity stripe for a third point. She made it count and it was a two possession game with two minutes on the clock. Looking in trouble, up stepped Griffin who nailed a three-pointer just in time and put her team within a point. The celebrations were short lived as her opposition captain, Katie-Rae Ebzery made a jump shot of her own and the lead was out to three again.

Griffin had a shot from long-range to try and make it back-to-back threes but missed, though Melbourne was quick to bounce on the offensive board and hit up Rocci to the open Tupaea who did drill it from outside the arc. Scores were tied with 47 seconds on the clock. Ashley Sharp tried to match it up the other end but missed, and Griffin again made them pay by grabbing the board, and with Tupaea involved, this time it was the youngest player on the court in Melbourne who put the final nail in the coffin. With eight seconds on the clock, Melbourne hit the three-pointer to win the game as a last second chance from Ebzery missed.

It is fair to say Griffin was the difference, shooting 21 points and picking up 12 rebounds in a mammoth performance off the bench. Rocci was the only other double-digit shooter, hitting 11 points and dishing off from four rebounds. Marianna Tolo (nine points, six rebounds), Melbourne (five points, six rebounds) and Froling (three points, five rebounds) all impacted off the boards, while Mikayla Ruef (seven points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Tupaea (eight points two rebounds and six assists) impacted off the bench.

Ebzery top scored for the Lynx, knocking down 17 points – though at 36 per cent efficiency from the field – as well as having five assists and three rebounds. Garbin picked up a double-double thanks to 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Sharp racked up 10 rebounds to go with her five points. Also in double-digits was Ciabattoni who scored 13 points and four assists, while Taylah Burrows was the standout off the Perth bench with seven points and six rebounds.

Picture: WNBL

Capitals grab fifth consecutive win, move ahead of Flyers

IN what was a defining victory, back-to-back premiers University of Canberra (UC) Capitals reminded fans just what they were capable of, dominating against the highly fancied Southside Flyers to win by 23 points and go outright with the most wins thus far in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). Both sides came into the clash with 4-1 records, though the Capitals had strung together four consecutive wins since an overtime loss to Adelaide Lightning on the opening night of the season, and since have gone from strength to strength.

That was certainly the case last night, when the Capitals outplayed the Flyers, convincingly winning three of the four quarters to secure a 95-72 victory, as six players hit double-figure points as the Flyers’ impressive depth struggled outside of Liz Cambage and Sara Blicavs. The ominous signs were there from the beginning with the Capitals racing out to a six-point lead at the first change, before streaking away to a 12-point advantage at half-time.

The third term saw the Flyers manage to stem the momentum and actually win the quarter 23-22, but it was the stunning 29-17 final term by the Capitals that saw them blow the margin out to 23 points and secure such a huge win. They dominated the rebounds (38-32), steals (9-4) and second chance points (18-8), while also having six less turnovers (10-16). The Flyers squared the assists ledger at 20 apiece, whilst having an extra block (3-2).

The Capitals had no shortage of contributors on the night, and a greater accuracy from the field – 52 per cent to 45 per cent, with Marianna Tolo leading the way. The co-captain had a team-high 19 points (64 per cent accuracy), as well as seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Hitting the scoreboard in a big way was Maddison Rocci who produced 17 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while young gun Jade Melbourne again stood tall under pressure, producing 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Keely Froling also managed the 12 points against the strong forward duo of Blicavs and Jenna O’Hea, while picking up three assists too. Coming off the bench, former Sydney Uni Flames talent Tahlia Tupaea recorded 12 points, four assists and two steals, while co-captain Kelsey Griffin again hit double-figure points with 10, as well as nine rebounds and two assists.

For the Flyers, Cambage (26 points, six rebounds and three blocks) and Blicavs (21 points, seven rebounds) did all the damage for the Flyers, but in an un-Southside like performance, lacked support on the scoring front. The usually slick Leilani Mitchell could only manage three points – one from eight from the field – and just the three assists, half of her season average.

O’Hea (six points, three rebounds and four assists) and Rebecca Cole (four points, six assists and three rebounds) also had low scoring numbers, though both were proficient on offence with their passing. Off the bench, Rachel Jarry had a handy seven points and three rebounds.

Southside Flyers will need to regroup in 48 hours to take on Perth Lynx on Wednesday, before the Capitals have a crack at the no doubt tiring Lynx on Thursday.

Flames fire up to narrow win over Lynx

Funda Nakkasoglu shot an incredible 27 points in Sydney Uni’s win over Perth last night. Picture credit: WNBL

LED by Funda Nakkasoglu off the bench, the Sydney Uni Flames have recorded a tight seven-point victory over Perth Lynx last night to keep their finals hopes alive and move to a 2-4 record early in Round 3 of the condensed WNBL season. The Flames looked good early and on track to record a big win, racing to an eight-point lead at quarter time. The Flames had restricted the Lynx to just 11 points in the first quarter, before Perth clicked into gear in the second.

The Lynx piled on 24-23 in a high-scoring term that made up about a third of the total game’s score, as Perth’s depth started to hit up the scoreboard. While the class of Darcee Garbin and Katie-Rae Ebzery helped cap off a strong finish to the quarter, it was the likes of Alexandra Sharp who started the term in good form. For the Flames, Nakkasoglu was getting her hands on the ball as the team shared it around.

Perth started to get on top in the third term and cut the deficit to just two points at the final break, with an Ebzery layup with three seconds on the clock – making it eight points for the term – drawing the Lynx within a basket. The Lynx had got within a point two minutes earlier, but each time the Flames pulled away. They did so in the final term, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to go 66-56 up, and it was hard to pull back.

When Garbin sank a triple with 2:44 on the clock, the deficit was just three points however as her and Ebzery had done everything they could to lift their side. Unfortunately for the Lynx, that would be their last score, as the Flames closed out the match courtesy of of deliberate fouls and subsequent four free throws to win, 74-67.

It was the team effort of the Flames that got them home, though the shooting of Nakkasoglu – which included four of five from long-range and 10 of 16 from the field for 27 points, was a catalyst. Alison Schwagmeyer (12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals) and Lauren Scherf (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks) were incredible, but it was the stunning work of Anneli Maley off the defensive boards that stole the show. Only the five points herself, the former Southside Flyer racked up 20 rebounds – 15 defensive – as well as three assists in a starring performance.

For the Lynx, it was again the Garbin and Ebzery show as the talents combined for 41 of their team’s 67 points. Garbin hit 22 points at 47 per cent from the field, including four of 10 from long range, while picking up eight rebounds – four up each end – three assists and two steals. Ebzery hit 50 per cent of her field goal attempts for 19 points, as well as five assists. Kayla Steindl did not make any of her eight field goal attempts, but was still the standout, picking up 12 rebounds, including nine off the defensive boards. Sharp had eight points, while Jessie Edwards came off the bench for six.

Sydney Uni Flames now have a little rest until their clash with Adelaide Lightning on Saturday, which also sees them back up against Townsville Fire the next day. That is not the case for Perth Lynx, who have to lick their wounds and then take on last year’s grand finalists, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals back-to-back tomorrow and Thursday respectively.

Dominant UC Capitalise on first half

BACK at full strength, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals put Bendigo Spirit to the sword in the first half of the opening match for Round 2 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), coming away with a 20-point win.

The Capitals never looked like losing the first game of the new round, storming to an early six-point lead at the first break, before restricting the Spirit to just eight points in the second term to extend their lead to 18 at the main break. In a counter contrast to that term, the Spirit were up for the fight in the third quarter, outscoring the Capitals in a blockbuster 49-point term which went 25-24 in favour of the underdogs. The Capitals managed to straighten up in another strange final quarter which only yielded 21 points (12-9 to the Capitals) and helped them to a 76-56 victory.

The Capitals were smart in sharing the points around. They managed the load of each player ahead of the massive clash with Melbourne Boomers as young gun Jade Melbourne top-scored with 14 points, as well as two rebounds and two assists. Maddison Rocci had 12 points, one assist and one steal, while Mikaela Ruef was the best on court for the winners thanks to her 11 points and 11 rebounds in a dominant double-double effort.

The Capitals simply made more of their chances, shooting at a higher clip from the field (37 to 31 per cent), and whilst neither side could hit the range from three-point land (25 to 19 per cent and just nine makes for the match), the Capitals scored 12 second chance points to six. Once again it was the playmaking experience of the Capitals over the Spirit that stood out, as the reigning back-to-back premiers had 20 assists to 13, as well as 10 steals to seven, and less turnovers (9-16).

Aside from the three double-figure scorers, there were plenty around the mark with co-captain Marianna Tolo putting up nine points, five rebounds and five assists in just 18 minutes, while Keely Froling came close to a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. She would want to forget her field goal shooting though, hitting just one of 11 from the field. Making a successful return, co-captain Kelsey Griffin produced eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 14 minutes of action.

For the Spirit, Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey provided the crucial tag-team effort in terms of scoring to try and drag their team over the line. Ernst hit up 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one block, while Lavey finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals as the pair combined for half of the team’s entire score (28 points). Mary Goulding was strong off the boards with six points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Alicia Froling denied opponents time and time again with two points, five rebounds and four blocks. Off the bench, Jennie Rintala notched up six points and six rebounds in 14 minutes.

Now the Capitals prepare for the huge Melbourne Boomers clash on the back of two impressive wins, whilst the Spirit will search for their first points of the season against Perth Lynx.

Melbourne Boomers’ Cayla George shoots her team to victory. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Third quarter the difference as Boomers hold off determined Lynx

Melbourne Boomers have held off a determined Perth Lynx outfit to remain undefeated from three games in the 2020 WNBL season thus far, whilst the Lynx remain winless despite their best efforts. In what was a see-sawing affair, the Lynx started strong, but the Boomers stepped up when it counted in the second half to win by six points, 62-56.

Perth led the contest for 28 minutes up until Kalani Purcell drilled two free throws to hand her side the lead for the first time in the third term with just 128 seconds left in the quarter. Up until that point, the Lynx had pieced together a healthy six-point lead at the first break, then managed to go toe-to-toe with the Boomers in the second term to lead by five at half-time, 37-32.

The momentum was starting to turn bit by bit in the third as Melbourne chewed back the minor deficit and showed off its defensive ability with 18-6 in the quarter to lead by five themselves at the final break. From there they had the scent of victory, never conceding the lead as Perth managed to level the scores a number of time, but the experience of the Boomers shone through, winning by six points in a thriller.

The story of the match was again accuracy, as the Boomers hit 59 per cent of their two-point range shots, but their usually-dominant three-point radar was off, with none of the 20 attempts going in. Perth’s ability to hit five triples – albeit at just 19 per cent accuracy – kept the Lynx in the contest, as they still averaged 45 per cent form the field. Perth also shaded the Boomers in rebounds (41-40), but the same difference reversed to the Boomers in assists (13-12) and second chance points (11-10). The two key areas where the Boomers stood up were defensively, producing five blocks to zero, and 12 steals to eight.

Cayla George steadied the side in crucial moments on her way to an impressive 25 points, five rebounds and two blocks to lead from the front, while Maddie Garrick hit 12 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in an all-round performance. Stella Beck‘s shooting was off with just one in seven from the field for two points, though she picked up seven rebounds, as well as two assists and two steals in the win. Ezi Magbegor scored seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal from 23 minutes on court, while Izzy Wright was the most impressive off the bench, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and three steals.

For the Lynx, Ashley Sharp was the clear standout, picking up a massive double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, and was the most accurate shooter on court of the starters, shooting at 54 per cent from the field, including five of six from two-point range. Kayla Steindl helped out off the boards with eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Darcee Garbin‘s strong start to the season hit a roadblock with the talent only hitting two of 10 from the field for four points and four rebounds in 33 minutes. Jessie Edwards stood up off the bench though, recording nine points and four rebounds in the loss.

Now the Lynx will need to regroup and will start favourites against the Spirit in a battle of the bottom two sides, while the Boomers will look to keep their winning streak alive against the Capitals.

WNBL Free Agency Update: Boomers and Capitals

WITH Australian basketball set to hopefully commence in the coming months, Draft Central revisits the Women’s National Basketball League’s (WNBL) Free Agency movements. We begin with two of last season’s top offences. Firstly, the third placed Melbourne Boomers who exited in last season’s semi-finals, then followed by two-time defending champion University of Canberra Capitals.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

After their semi-final exit in WNBL20, it was evident that Guy Molloy’s squad was on the right track to challenge for the WNBL title. But with the Boomers’ championship drought coming up on its tenth season and the pandemic preventing last season’s imports from returning, Melbourne’s extra signings hope they can take next season’s team to the penultimate step.

The champions of 2010-11, made their immediate offseason intentions known early, quickly re-establishing their core group before teams could react. The first of which were their leaders and captains in Cayla George and Maddie Garrick, indicating that the purple and gold are once again looking at making a serious title run. This coupled with the re-acquisition of one of Australia’s best young talents in Ezi Magbegor, who is currently battling her way through her rookie WNBA season with the Seattle Storm, the Boomers have themselves a talented central unit.

Further adding to their experience, the return of Tess Madgen to the Boomers after more than four seasons up north with the Townsville Fire, will provide an elite-level mentoring group for the abundance of young talent that sits within Melbourne’s current roster.

The majority of the Boomers’ actions during this year’s signing period have been re-signings. Other familiar faces to return include Tall Ferns captain, Kalani Purcell, as well as fellow New Zealand internationals Toni Farnworth, Penina Davidson and Stella Beck. The last of Molloy’s re-signees is Development Player and Nunawading Spectre sharpshooter, Rachel Brewster, as she continues to improve at an astronomical rate.

New to the State Basketball Centre are fresh signings in Izzy Wright and Hope Terdich. Wright, who has in the past contributed to the Perth Lynx and Logan Thunder, took a couple of years away from the WNBL to focus on stability outside of the sport, and is now ready to compete in the league once more. The final piece of the 12-player puzzle, is 34-year-old Terdich, who most recently played a major role in the Diamond Valley Eagles’ NBL1 squad, is no stranger to success. After winning the WNBL Championship with the 2011/12 Dandenong Rangers, she looks to aid this objective once more with their cross-town rivals.

Contracted:

Chelsea D’Angelo (Will not play in WNBL21 due to ruptured Achilles tendon)

Re-signed:

Maddie Garrick
Cayla George
Ezi Magbegor
Kalani Purcell
Toni Farnworth
Penina Davidson
Stella Beck
Rachel Brewster

Signed:

Tess Madgen
Izzy Wright
Hope Terdich

 

UC CAPITALS

Referring back to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Paul Gorris has done little to alter his title-winning formula, with only two signings from other clubs due to next season’s import preventions, particularly the absentees in Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa.

The bulk signings of six title-winning players indicated what was to ensue, as captains and leaders Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling will lead their side for another season. Following up with newly selected Australian Opal, Maddison Rocci, opposing teams will have their hands full outside the perimeter when she is on the floor. This was evident in numerous impressive outings in the Queensland Basketball League in the last month. Rounding out the six early signings were Abby Cubillo and Alex Delaney. Cubillo, who earned Canberra’s Rising Capital Award last season in her first year since being elevated from a Development Player position, will re-join her cohort, whereas Delaney makes her return to the team that she too helped win their last two chips.

After obtaining their early selections, Gorris’ staff did not need to look far for their two new additions, as the Capitals poached 23-year-old point guard Tahlia Tupaea (to replace Epoupa) and 34-year-old veteran Brittany Smart (to replace Nurse) from cross-town rivals, the Sydney Uni Flames.

Smart, who has a cache of professional experience, hopes to bestow some of that on her younger soon-to-be peers, after successful stints in Belgium and Sweden before joining the Melbourne Boomers. For Tupaea, her career arrived before her at the tender age of 15, shaping her into one of the most mature and experienced players for her age and forging an iron-clad bond to the Flames. The pinnacle of her career, however, was being selected in the 2017 Draft to the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, with the goal of someday donning the uniform in the seasons to come.

Awaiting the decision on whether the UCLA Bruins will compete in NCAA play for 2020/21, Gemma Potter remains a conditional re-signee for the Capitals, meaning that Mikaela Ruef’s two-year extension sums up Gorris’s squad for next season. The signing of Ruef comes after the US-born forward was granted Australian permanent residency. The delay from her immigration paperwork was the reason why the 29-year-old was unable to play during last season.

Contracted:

 Nil

Re-signed:

Marianna Tolo
Kelsey Griffin
Keely Froling
Maddison Rocci
Abby Cubillo
Alex Delaney
Mikaela Ruef
Gemma Potter (Conditional upon NCAA decision to play)

Signed:

Tahlia Tupaea
Brittany Smart

Four first-time young guns included in Opals Squad

ANNOUNCED on Monday morning, Basketball Australia extended their list of Australian Opal players in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Asia Cup Qualifiers and Asia Cup. As the FIBA Qualification period fast approaches (November 8-16), it is still hazy whether the qualifiers for the Asia Cup will go ahead, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally headlined by the likes of Elizabeth Cambage (Las Vegas Aces), Alanna Smith (Phoenix Mercury/Adelaide Lightning), Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty) and Leilani Mitchell (Washington Mystics/Southside Flyers), Head Coach Sandy Brondello has added some younger blood to their initial 19-woman line-up.

The first of four new additions to the roster is 18-year-old newly signed Townsville Fire guard, Shyla Heal – daughter of NBL legend Shane Heal. The Heal family has tasted plenty of success on the international stage with Shane representing Australia in four different Olympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004). For Heal however, she is now in a position to fight for that honour herself, joining the senior national team after a productive season with the Bendigo Spirit, averaging 12.1 points and over four rebounds. Heal’s progression during the campaign would see Head Coach Tracy York increase her workload tremendously. By the end of last season, Heal completed games with more than 27 minutes under her belt, becoming one of Bendigo’s top-performers at the conclusion of WNBL20.

Heal joins the Opals squad knowing a few familiar faces, lining up alongside former roommate and Bendigo teammate, Tessa Lavey. Additionally, Zitina Aokuso and Lauren Nicholson, who will suit up for Townsville next season with Heal, also made the original squad.

The second of four new additions Brondello and her staff felt obliged to place into their squad is 22-year-old and two-time WNBL champion, Maddison Rocci, of the University of Canberra Capitals.

In a recent interview with Draft Central, Rocci indicated that the goal of being selected to the national team was already on the cards but remained reserved in whether or not it would happen so soon.

“It’s obviously a dream becoming an Opal one day, whether it is any time soon or in the near future, it has always been a massive goal of mine and to represent my country at the Olympic Games,” Rocci said.

That dream became a step closer to reality for Rocci, after being selected in the final pool of players vying for a position in the finalised squad. Rocci had an outstanding performance in last season’s WNBL competition, which ultimately led to Canberra’s second title in as many years. Rocci, who for the first time in her career, earned the right to be a consistent starter for her team under the guidance of Paul Goriss, consistently played 30-plus minutes each time out. This included a 37-minute performance in Canberra’s title-clinching win over the Southside Flyers.

Individually, Rocci’s season could be categorised as a productive one, averaging nine points a game, alongside 2.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds as well. Canberra’s shooting-guard was consistent from the field, maintaining a 40 per cent shooting efficiency, which also included a three-point-shot clip of 36.1 per cent, making her one of the most reliable three-point shooters across the league.

Other Capitals’ selectees for the National Squad include their co-captains and WNBL veterans, Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin, both of whom re-signed with the defending champs for next season’s three-peat bid.

The remaining two inclusions for the Opals are collegiate superstars in Victorian-born Jaz Shelley (University of Oregon) and Queensland-born Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse University).

For Shelley going into her sophomore season with the Fighting Ducks, it was nothing short of a success with the Pac-12 side in her freshman year. She broke the program record for most three-pointers in a single game (10) and became the first freshman at Oregon to accumulate 30 points in a single-game since the 2013-14 college season. Shelley earned a Pac-12 All-Freshman Honourable Mention to conclude her opening season of collegiate play.

The 20-year-old has represented Australia on numerous occasions, participating in the 2017 U19 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships, where for the first time in the nation’s history they won gold in the tournament.

Looking to the East Coast, Syracuse senior and AP All-America Honourable Mention nominee Mangakahia has earned her first National Squad selection after two terrific seasons with the Orange in New York, capped off by a record-breaking campaign in her Junior year.

Following a long list of accolades, such as being named to the All-ACC First Team, Syracuse Female Player of the Year, breaking the program record for All-Time assists (591) and becoming the fastest player in Syracuse history to reach 1,000 points, Mangakahia still has a season to play for the Orange in her Senior year. How that will take shape due to COVID-19, no one yet knows.

With many more accomplishments still yet to be talked about, it made total sense that Brondello included Mangakahia in the Opals’ preliminary squad. The 25-year-old has represented Australia in the U16, U18 and U19 age brackets in the past, but has never been selected to the Senior National Squad until now, despite attending a Team Camp in April of last year.

The full list of selected Opals can be found – HERE

WNBL Free Agency: Week 3 Update

THE WNBL has had a very traffic-heavy third week in the league’s Free Agency Period, as five of the competition’s eight sides made roster updates, whilst the Adelaide Lightning announced earlier today that they will disclose their second (possibly third) signing this upcoming Monday.

Going through each team alphabetically, Draft Central outlines how the third week has panned out.

Adelaide Lightning

Almost two weeks prior to now, the Lightning organisation revealed their marquee signing of the WNBL21 season, with the acquisition of Australian Opal and member of the Phoenix Mercury, Alanna Smith.

Moving down the track to earlier today, Adelaide’s social media platforms teased the fact that on Monday June 29, the unveiling of their second and possibly third Free Agency signings will be made known to the public.

Bendigo Spirit

Known to carry a development philosophy throughout their club, the Bendigo Spirit further cemented that notion with the acquisition of 17-year-old Young Gun and University of Indiana-commit, Paige Price.

While Price spent all of last season as a development player with the Melbourne Boomers, getting just a couple of runs throughout the campaign, she’s eager to get some serious game time, as she signs with her former side’s country rivals.

But the rising star knows that she needs to work hard if she’s to earn additional minutes for next season under the guidance of Head Coach Tracy York.

“I am excited to be joining the Bendigo Spirit. I have spent a lot of time training and playing at Bendigo throughout my Vic Country experience, so I know the place well and feel comfortable in the environment and excited to be back in Vic Country.”

“There are no guarantees or promises from Tracy, but it is up to me now to earn any minutes.”

“I see the move to Bendigo as the next progression in my career and I’ve loved Tracy’s coaching style when I played under her for Australia at the FIBA Oceania Tournament so I am confident I will make the most of this opportunity,” she said.

Price is the sixth confirmed member for the Spirit next season, following the confirmations of Alicia Froling, Carley Ernst, Cassidy McLean, Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey.

Melbourne Boomers

At the conclusion of her second season with the Melbourne Boomers, newly re-signed 20-year-old Ezi Magbegor was gifted the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award for a record setting second time of her career, which makes you understand why the club is ecstatic to welcome her back for a third fixture in WNBL21.

With the Seattle Storm set to debut Magbegor in the coming weeks for their shortened WNBA season, it provides the Opal an opportunity to really raise her benchmark of opposition, before coming back to the WNBL to help push for the franchise’s first title under the ‘Melbourne’ moniker in the club’s history.

In a brief statement to the club, Magbegor highlighted her confidence in the team that is set to take shape. “I’m excited to be going into my third year with the Boomers,” she said.

“With a lot of returning players, we’ve built a strong team and I am looking forward to getting on the court with the team and really working this season,” she added.

As per Melbourne’s signed players thus far, Magbegor joins the likes of co-captains Maddie Garrick and Cayla George, as well as Townsville’s Tess Madgen.

Perth Lynx

Shortly after it was divulged that All-WNBL First Team recipient Katie Ebzery and WA-local Darcee Garbin were to be playing in the red and black next season, it seems as though ‘home is where the heart is’ for much of the Lynx’s WNBL21 roster, as Ryan Petrik and his team signed returning Perth player and former WNBL Rookie of the Year recipient, Alex Ciabattoni.

Beginning her WNBL career in her home state of South Australia, Ciabattoni would cement a splendid rookie season with the Lightning, earning herself ROTY honours in the 2015/16 season. She would make the move out west for the 2017/18 season with the Perth Lynx, helping the team to a minor premiership and a 15-6 record. Following a semi-final upset to the Boomers, the 26-year-old Forward made the trip over to Italy to sign with Reyer Venezia (Serie A1), while also going on loan to Ponzano Basket during her overseas stint.

Heading back home to what Ciabattoni calls her “second home”, Petrik seems optimistic of what this Perth side is capable of as they move along in the offseason, given he knows what his latest signee’s skills bring to the table.

“Alex is someone who can do a little bit of everything and with the way the game is going that skillset is really valuable to us,” he said

“We know Chibba’s game really well and we’re confident that she has the ability to be a real weapon for us this season.”

Sydney Uni Flames

Following the signings of Australian Opal Lauren Mansfield and the fast developing Anneli Maley, the Sydney Uni Flames became the final team to enter the Free Agency conversation, as they confirmed more signings to come in the next couple of weeks.

Mansfield, who spent her previous season with the Lynx, provided herself with what was a very respectable season. Earning solid numbers in all of the major categories, Mansfield averaged 9.6 points, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals (eighth highest in the WNBL) per game.

Heading into the twilight years of her career at the age of 30, Mansfield is still aiming to refine her game further, which she addressed following the announcement of her transfer. “After speaking with Katrina, who emphasised building a good culture with a mix of young talent and experienced players, I thought Sydney would be a great fit for the further development of my basketball career,” explained Mansfield.

The latter of the Flames’ two signings, Maley, who played for the Southside Flyers in WNBL20, projects an energy around her that motivates her teammates. This attracted Head Coach Katrina Hibbert to the 21-year-old, something her side will need if they are to improve upon their sixth-place finish from last season.

“She’s known for her athleticism, energy, effort, and rebounding abilities – just to name a few,” said Hibbert.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming her into our program this season as she is a natural leader through her approach to basketball on and off the court. It’s going to be wonderful to see her continue her development and continue to blossom under a style of play that will compliment her versatility.”

The two join Lauren Scherf as the Flames’ only contracted players to this stage.

Townsville Fire

The Fire family keeps getting bigger, as they signed Wasserburg Power Forward, Megan McKay, who is coming off a tremendous season in the German Bundeliga (top Basketball competition in Germany).

An alum of the notorious Saint Mary’s College Gaels in the U.S, McKay has an extensive history of playing against top-level competitors. This included averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per contest for Wasserburg in her most recent season overseas.

Having also represented Australia in U17’s, McKay is happy to be back at home competing in the WNBL.

Head Coach of the Fire Shannon Seebohm believes that McKay will fit in well with his frontcourt, given her abilities in and around the basket.

“She is a strong interior presence and a great rebounder. She will bring a lot of energy to our team and I am excited to see her play in the WNBL and show what she is capable of,” he explained.

Stay tuned for more WNBL Free agency updates.

WNBL Free Agency: Ebzery re-signs for another year, Lynx/Fire trade shakes up FA period

FRIDAY was a busy time for the Western Australia-based Perth Lynx, as they made a couple of moves during what was an entertaining end to the second week of Free Agency talks, the latter being a trade with the Townsville Fire.

However, prior to the trade, the Lynx made sure to lock up one of their captains, Australian Opal Katie Ebzery. The club’s current MVP and one of last season’s All-WNBL First Team recipients, Ebzery made her case known last season as one of the league’s most prolific and intelligent forces throughout the competition.

During the 2019/20 season, the 178cm-tall guard cracked the league leaders in points (16.3), assists (4.2) and minutes (33.5) per game, as she paved the way to what was an exemplary season on an individual level.

Despite the Lynx’s 8-13 record last season, falling one spot out of the postseason, the duo of Ebzery and fellow signee in Sami Whitcomb puts Perth’s road to redemption in good stead come Round 1, as the Lynx’s core group of players will bring excitement and success to the West, new Head Coach Ryan Petrik alluded to.

“Katie’s work ethic is phenomenal and her attention to detail is second to none. The pairing of Ebzery and Whitcomb will not only provide fans with some exciting basketball, it sets the standard for our program off the court as well,” Petrik said.

A day later, Perth would complete their second move in a matter of hours as they welcomed home former Townsville forward and two-time WNBL champion, Darcee Garbin, whereas the Fire would also welcome home a local of their own, with Nadeen Payne being the other participant of the transaction.

The trade sees homecomings on both sides, with each player coming off strong 2019/20 seasons.

For Garbin, her past season’s stat line shone a light on her ability to contribute to the scoreboard, averaging 14.4 points per contest, as well as averaging over six rebounds. Garbin’s counterpart in Payne, saw similar totals in points and rebounds averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 boards each time out on the floor, while also accumulating almost a steal per game.

Specifically, for Payne, she joins one of the most impressive pre-season line-ups heading into WNBL20, as she stands alongside a new look Fire squad that will most likely challenge for a title next season, a team she said she looks forward to joining.

“My mum and dad still live in Townsville, it will be great to be back around my family and playing Fire colours again, I am even more excited to learn that this season is the Fire’s 20th season and cannot wait to be a part of the celebrations and back with the local community, I think our team will be one that they will be really excited to get around.”

Garbin’s signing adds to a list containing Lauren Nicholson, Shyla Heal, Mia Murray, Kate Gaze and Zitina Aokuso.

WNBL Free Agency: Nicholson to join Fire and George back in Boom Town

SINCE Tuesday afternoon, the WNBL has had its hands full with big moves in its second week of the Free Agency period. Former Defensive Player of the Year (2018/19) in Lauren Nicholson has joined what is starting to look like a serious contender in the Townsville Fire, while former Perth Lynx star, Sami Whitcomb, is set to return to the west after an overseas stint in France.

In addition, WNBL veterans Cayla George and Brittany Smart have stated their intentions for the upcoming season, with George staying put in “Boom Town” for a third consecutive season and Smart making the move to the nation’s capital to suit up in Paul Gorris’ side.

Nicholson, who has long been praised for her defensive ability, was awarded the Adelaide Lightning’s club Defensive Player of the Year Award this past season adding to what has been a very successful WNBL career to this point.

Following the move Tuesday, Nicholson lines up next to the likes of young guns Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal, as well as Mia Murray in Shannon Seebohms bid to bring glory back to the far-north following a sub-par 5-16 record in WNBL20.

At a glance, Nicholson was a productive force for the Lightning last season, as she helped her side to a fourth-place finish after 21 games. She would average a consistent 14.2 points per contest, while earning her keep in the rebounding and steals categories, averaging 3.4 and 1.4 in the respective categories.

In Townsville’s media release, the location of the move and the community love for the team were the critical factors in the 27-year-old’s decision, “I am so excited about the move to Townsville and joining the Fire next season, every time I come to Townsville, I love the community feeling, the crowd and its supporters are certainly the loudest and most passionate in the league. I can’t wait to get the feeling of playing at the stadium, with them supporting me, wearing the Fire colours, it will be awesome to be a part of,” said Nicholson.

Out by the Indian Ocean, the Perth Lynx have initiated their announcements regarding next season’s signees, as Whitcomb will don the red and black for the first time since the 2017/18 campaign.

Following a WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm and two seasons with French powerhouse, Basket Lattes, Whitcomb brings an abundance of success and experience to newly signed head coach, Ryan Petrik’s side.

Whitcomb averages over 20 points per game to this point in her WNBL career, as the backcourt prospect will prove to be a handful for opposing sides with the goal of helping the Lynx return to the postseason.

Down in Victoria, the Melbourne Boomers announced that co-captain George (next to Maddie Garrick) would be staying at the club for another year, as the 31-year-old WNBL Hall of Fame inductee will be a part of Guy Molloy’s 2020/21 squad.

Completing her WNBL20 season with averages of 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists per game, George continues to ride a string of successful seasons in the Purple and Gold as the Boomers can look to both their team leaders for next season’s affairs.

Looking to the nation’s capital, where Gorris has added some more experience to the defending champs, as Smart has signed on for a one-year contract in the ACT, according to the club.

Coming off a minimised season (seven games), Smart would still maintain almost 10 points per game in the games she would participate in, indicating there is more to be offered by the 35-year-old.

Smart enters her sixth season in the WNBL and will look to be a guiding force for the Caps, as they look to make history and win three consecutive championships for the first time since the Adelaide Lightning dynasty of 1994-96 led by Rachael Sporn.

Draft Central can also confirm that the following Canberra signings during the Free Agency period have all agreed to one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season, per the Capitals administration.

Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Tahlia Tupaea.

Young Guns in the WNBL – Ezi Magbegor

JUST over a year ago, Eziyoda Magbegor felt like she was on top of the world, being called as the 12th pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft to the three-time champions, Seattle Storm.

A year on from that, ‘Ezi’ now awaits the upcoming 2020/21 season, as it was announced that she had been picked to the 12-player roster for the Storm’s upcoming fixtures.

Having to hear the news that she had been drafted back in 2019 here in Australia, all Magbegor could feel was a sense of relief, which would then be overcome with emotion, as she was surrounded by loved ones and friends such as her parents Patience (mother) and Appolus (father), as well as agent Bruce Kaider.

“I think I felt a lot of emotions, but I think relief was probably the main one I can remember,” reflected Magbegor. “Leading up to that point, that was one of my biggest goals, to be drafted to the WNBA.”

“On draft day, things are pretty up in the air until your name gets called,” added Magbegor. “You don’t know where you’re going to land, but having my name called in the first round, that was pretty amazing.”

For Magbegor right now, however, she is spoiled for choice in terms of offseason training programs from both the trainers at the Seattle Storm and the Australian Opals, as she tries to navigate through what has been a “different offseason than usual”, according to the 20-year-old, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’ve been able to do things at home such as bodyweight workouts, running programs on the grass, getting to an outdoor court and just hooping in my backyard. I even have a running track behind my house,” said Magbegor.

This diligence and dedication to her craft was instilled in the Wellington-born star at a young age, becoming involved in sport early on in her life.

After moving to Australia at the age of five and starting basketball at seven, handling the rock was not Magbegor’s immediate interest, but shortly after crossing the Tasman, it wasn’t long until Magbegor fell in love with the game.

“When I was in New Zealand, I played soccer, not very seriously, but more to keep myself active with my older siblings,” said Magbegor.

“How I got into basketball was, I went to Oak Park Primary School where my sister (Elo) did singing, and her singing coach owned a domestic basketball club called the Northern Rebels at Coburg. So, after my brother (Ovie) started playing, I started playing shortly after that.”

Fast forward to 2015 and Magbegor would make her international debut in the green and gold as a 16-year-old, breaking down barriers left, right and centre. Move further along to the end of 2017, and she would receive her first Opals selection to a national training camp, thus resulting in her first official appearance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Following an exemplary list of international accomplishments and a season with the Canberra Capitals, Magbegor would make her back down to Victoria under the guidance of Melbourne Boomers Head Coach, Guy Molloy, where at first, the two-time WNBL Coach of the Year mentioned he saw lots of potential.

“She’s an absolute sponge to want to learn and improve!” praised Molloy. “She has been dominant through her progression in Australian hoops due to her athleticism and physical gifts, and as we begin to turn her into a real basketballer, we’re going to see a hell of a player emerge.”

Although some of her game seemed unrefined at first, mentioned Molloy, he feels that she has made significant improvements to her game, namely her defense and shooting.

Because of these changes, she is to be well-prepared for her rookie season in the US, as she is now well equipped to face top-level talent overseas.

“She was naïve defensively when she began,” said Molloy. “Where she’s going in the WNBA, defense definitely needs to be a forte, but she has improved significantly with most aspects of her defense and she is now a lot better than where she started.”

“The second major thing was when she got to the Boomers, we really broke down and restructured her shot with the long-term intention to add a legitimate three-ball to her game because that’s the demand for what a modern power-forward needs to do, which she has certainly done. Now she’s starting to find the touch in confidence, as each season goes by to make that a bigger part of her game,” added the Boomers’ gaffer.

Not only has Molloy gone on to respect Magbegor’s game, but as a person and a professional, he has formed what he thinks is a very “strong” relationship with her, says the Melbourne coach. According to the 54-year-old, if he could sign Magbegor to an “ultra-long-term deal with the Boomers” he would, as he loves to coach her.

Zitina Aokuso, the Townsville Fire’s current Forward/Center for the side, played a season with the fellow frontcourt star in Geelong during the 2019 NBL1 season, where the two rekindled an old on-court partnership from when they were back in Canberra.

Aokuso was able to express to Draft Central what it’s like to be a peer of Magbegor’s.

“I think Magbegor is a hardworking and selfless player! She’s a very humble person on and off the court,” said Aokuso. “Playing alongside Magbegor has always been a great experience, she always pushes me to be a better player. “And playing against her is always a great competitive experience.”

Coming off Magbegor’s second season with the purple and gold, the Boomers would make the semi-finals for their third consecutive season.

For Magbegor, it was a tale of two halves in her 2019/20 campaign, but feels finding good long-term rhythm through a season is one of her primary objectives in order to continue developing to her fullest extent.

“Consistency is definitely one thing that I’m aiming to improve on,” said Magbegor. “I had a better second half of the season than the first half, but I definitely aimed to keep improving on being more aggressive when I got the ball and just being more of a scoring option for my team.”

Other little things to continue working on, like for instance running the floor, helped her side to a 16-5 record, thus securing second spot in the season standings. Following this, it would cap off a season nothing short of a success for Magbegor.

After a season averaging 13 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, while maintaining a conversion rate of more than half her field goal attempts (52.1 per cent), the WNBL would bestow Magbegor with the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award (two-time recipient).

While Magbegor and the Boomers would ultimately go down to the eventual champions UC Capitals, she feels that the team that is to be set up for next season, is a real chance to take the club’s quest for a championship in almost a decade (Bulleen Boomers of 2011) to the next level.

“We’re pretty lucky we’ve kept a lot of our core group together, and a lot of us have experienced that grand final loss (2017/18), so we know what it takes to get there,” said Magbegor.

“Now we’re all in that position to go that one step further and win a championship, but going forward there’s still a lot we need to work on as a team.”

In saying this, Magbegor knows that the team did a lot of things right last season, but the first step in any successful campaign, is a good preseason.

With leaders like Cayla George and Maddy Garrick being the team’s backbone come November, the Boomers are always a good chance to push for a title.

However, whether or not the Boomers can make that next step come to fruition, time will tell. But for Magbegor, the next step is her rookie season in the WNBA with Seattle, as she awaits the next steps regarding travels over to the States.