Tag: wnbl

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Alicia Froling

A PLAYER born and raised in the far-north tropics of Townsville; Alicia Froling got her first taste of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in her hometown amongst the Fire’s roster from 2011 to 2014. She now looks to make her return to the League after five years of NCAA basketball in the States and one year off due to injury with the Bendigo Spirit.

The experience of playing at a professional level in her earlier years proved handy, as the young Australian talent shook up the American Athletic Conference for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Dallas, Texas. She became the first player in SMU women’s basketball history to accumulate 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and receive All-American Athletic Conference Third Team honours in her senior year.

After five years of college ball (redshirted in her fourth year due to injury), Froling made her way back home and head coach of the Spirit Tracy York knew she wanted the tenacious forward to be a part of her roster for the 2019/20 season. The only restriction for this move, however, was the fact that Froling would not actually suit up for Bendigo in WNBL20, as she recovered from a season-ending wrist injury that saw her sidelined for the entire campaign. Nevertheless, Bendigo’s administration was more than eager to hold on to the 24-year-old the season after.

“Given her career in college, she’s an elite rebounder and defender,” York stated. “That’s just massive to be able to have someone with good possession play and of her calibre as well, so we definitely wanted to jump on that and get her back with us this year.”

Not only does Froling’s game appeal to York, but the 191cm-tall prospect’s laid-back attitude is also a key attribute. “She’s a very chilled person, she will sit in the background and quietly smile, she will talk if you ask her questions and she takes it all in,” York said. “Everyone has different personalities, but I think she’s very excited. It has been a long time coming for her, obviously after finishing her college career and I think she’s ready to get started, and maybe start a little bit of competition with her twin sister Keely so we will see.”

Froling herself indicated excitement in returning to the WNBL, noting the level of competition the League has on offer, as well as praising York and her staff for the squad she has pulled together during the offseason.

“I’m really excited to be playing with Bendigo this WNBL season. After missing last season due to injury, I am even more excited to finally get to play in Bendigo, and in one of the best leagues in the world,” Froling said. “Tracy has put together a great team l and I’m looking forward to getting together with the group and seeing what we can achieve,” she concluded.

Froling remains up in Townsville for now, being trained by her father Shane as well as receiving regular check-ins by way of York’s notorious Zoom sessions, as teams continue to wait for announcements regarding “return to play” procedures from the WNBL.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Tessa Lavey

WHILE few familiar faces will return to Bendigo’s side next season, coach Tracy York and her staff have managed to hold on to one of their cornerstone pieces from last year in Tessa Lavey and will look for another productive campaign from the national-level guard. Spending over four seasons away from the Spirit serving time with both the Perth Lynx and the Dandenong Rangers, Lavey made her return to her former club for the 2019/20 season and displayed all the extra experience she gained while away.

After receiving a consistent starting role in the Spirit’s rotation, Lavey produced exceptional numbers in all 21 contests of last season. She maintained over 10 points per game in addition to 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists on a nightly basis. Her manner of shooting stabilised at a frequently high level, falling just under a 40 per cent conversion rate from the field (39.6) and three-point range (38.4).

Stated often as a crowd-favourite of the club, the re-signing was a big move for the club. “It was exciting for me and Mark [Alabakov],” York said. “She’s clearly got a lot of talent and she’s a really good person, and that is really key. She’s really coachable, she doesn’t bring any drama to the group, she’s very funny and everybody just loves Tessa,” York added.

After her successes in WNBL20, the national Opals side saw fit to nominate the 27-year-old to the 23-player shortlist for next year’s Olympic squad as well as Asia Cup Qualifiers. Being a frontrunner to make the final cut amongst the guards available, York indicates Lavey still needs to be slightly more of a producer and a facilitator for the side on the offensive end, a player similar in some respects to the likes of Leilani Mitchell suggested the Spirit’s coach.

“At that starting guard spot, she does need to be more of a scorer and a distributor, which is what her feedback from the Opals has been to her in taking on that point-guard role,” York said.

“In that last game of last season against Townsville she had 21 points and watching that game back again it was just her normal style of basketball. She got out on the break, she hit a couple open threes, she got a couple of drives and that’s the thing that I said to her which is ‘that is what we’re looking for’ and I’m sure that kind of thing is what the Opals are looking for as well.”

During her announcement, Lavey voiced her excitement for re-signing for another year in Bendigo, focusing on her love of the fans and what the club has to offer. “I’m really excited to announce that I’m staying in Bendigo for WNBL21. The program has some exciting things coming its way, I can’t wait to be involved,” Lavey said.

“I’m also super keen to get to work and push for Tokyo and I believe Bendigo can really give me all the opportunity to get there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the games when it’s safe to do so. Never underestimate our fans support at home,” she added.

Lavey will be one of the must-see players for next season’s WNBL campaign, as many will be eager to see what the national-level guard is capable of in what will surely be another impressive year.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Amelia Todhunter

TO kick off Bendigo’s player spotlight series, Draft Central looks at the Spirit’s newest addition to their leadership group in 32-year-old and Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Champion Amelia Todhunter. The Albury-born country superstar will once again head to the bush, announcing in mid-July that she would be joining Tracy York’s side for WNBL21.

Todhunter, who has had her fair share of WNBL action throughout her productive career, will be moving to her fourth club dating back to 2007 where she initiated her career at the Dandenong Rangers for three seasons. Following the 2009/10 campaign, Todhunter made the move to Dandenong’s crosstown rivals, the Bulleen Boomers (now Melbourne), where she found her only taste of championship glory. While Todhunter played limited minutes in both the semi-final against the Canberra Capitals and the grand final rematch, the then-youngster provided a positive presence coming off the bench, helping the franchise earn their first ever title.

After two seasons with the short-lived West Coast Waves franchise in Perth (later became the Perth Lynx), Todhunter returned back to Victoria to serve sizeable stints with both the newly formed Melbourne Boomers and again the Rangers. The move to the Spirit came about as a result of a couple of factors according to head coach York, with the first being the delayed Free Agency period, and the second being the restriction of imports for next season.

“Her name came up and I spoke to her a few times as well as a couple of other people,” York said in an interview with Draft Central. “Her experience, leadership, maturity and the fact that she’s a great defender, which ticks a big box for me, and from then on it was a no-brainer after we started talking.”

Todhunter has indicated to York that she understands if she is not given a starting role on a consistent basis, despite having over 200 WNBL games to her name. But the veteran guard still believes she has a lot to learn under her new coach, she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

“I am so excited to be playing for the Spirit,” Todhunter said. “I’ve known of Tracy around the league both WNBL and NBL, so I am thrilled to learn and grow even more from Tracy’s knowledge and experience.

“This year I want to be 100 per cent true to who I am as a player and person. I want to combine my basketball skills and experiences with my knowledge in well-being to help grow each player and create strong chemistry within the team.

“On court, I am excited to get out there and play my role. I want to positively impact the team by bringing my relentless defence, hard-work, and dedication to the game while maintaining my fun, energetic nature,” Todhunter finalised.

York further stated the importance of Todhunter’s level of experience, highlighting she was the perfect fit into the team’s system and is excited to see what she can bring to the table and how she can ease developing players into the national limelight. “Her mindset is not about just herself,” York said. “It’s about how she can make others get better and help young players develop in the long run.”

Todhunter will bestow her cache of knowledge upon an extensive list of young prospects next season. These include the likes of a recovered Alicia Froling, second year Bendigo players Cassidy McLean and Demi Skinner, former Melbourne Boomer Paige Price, as well as Development Players Piper Dunlop and Georgia Pineau.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Marianna Tolo

TO complete Draft Central’s Player Spotlights on the University of Canberra Capitals this week, we focus on the second half of the side’s backbone in four-time Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) champion and former Defensive Player of the Year, Marianna Tolo.

The club announced on the second day of Free Agency that they re-signed their co-captain, which would precede the signing blitz of an additional five players in the following few days. Head coach of the Capitals Paul Goriss knew that signing Tolo first would be a major morale boost to the local fan base of Canberra and the club as a whole.

“It’s great for the fans and it’s great for sponsorship,” Goriss said to Draft Central. “It’s great to see that players are sticking by us and are prepared to stay here when they could go to Europe and earn a lot more money than what they would playing in the WNBL.”

“Just to have that consistency and continuity, it really gives the group some stability and people love coming to watch the likes of Tolo play, so it was a huge signing to be able to keep her for a third season in a row,” Goriss said.

Having also been a part of the Capitals’ squads that earned title glory back in the 2009 and 2010 winning seasons, Tolo cemented her Canberra legacy alongside Kelsey Griffin last season, as the pair won the franchise’s ninth title in their history. But Tolo’s season on an individual level was nothing short of elite. The 31-year-old achieved a well-earned stat line of 14.6 points per game, as well as collecting 7.6 rebounds each time out on the floor. Tolo also managed to maintain a ridiculously good field goal percentage, converting on 53.4 per cent of her shots over her 20-game season.

Tolo, who is a definite inclusion for next year’s Olympic Games as an Australian Opal, saw re-signing with the Caps as the perfect option for her preparations especially given the current situation regarding COVID-19. “It’s hard to say no when we have just won back to back. I had initially thought of going overseas but because the Olympics was postponed to next year as well as the ongoing Coronavirus situation… it seemed like the perfect decision to make,” she said in her announcement.

“I know that the way we train and play will prepare me perfectly for Olympics. The UC Capitals also really look after their players, so I know that they always consider my health during the season. They have been great with managing my injuries,” she added.

In terms of leadership, which was outlined in Kelsey Griffin’s Player Spotlight piece, both Tolo and Griffin are the perfect combination to lead Goriss’ side according to the coach, but the Capitals’ gaffer described what effect his center has on the squad and how she has maintained her level of greatness to this point of her career.

“Going back, she has always prided herself on the defensive end,” Goriss said. “She’s always prided herself in getting those tougher matchups and neutralising the other team’s defence and she loves doing that ‘grunty’ kind of work, as opposed to the offensive part of the game. But she’s always been about the team first and sometimes I still feel we’re just scratching the surface with her at the offensive end of the floor.”

For the rest of Draft Central’s Player Spotlights on next season’s Canberra Capitals squad – Click HERE

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Kelsey Griffin

CAPITALS co-captain and one half of Canberra’s backbone, Kelsey Griffin means as much to Paul Goriss’ squad as oxygen does to a human being. After Griffin announced at the start of the Free Agency period that she would be a part of the squad for next season, the Capitals franchise could breathe a huge sigh of relief – Goriss in particular.

“Kelsey has been an unbelievable leader,” Goriss said in an interview with Draft Central. “More so from two aspects of her game, her work ethic on and off the court, whether it’s during individuals or triggering team practice and studying for games.

“She’s meticulous in her preparations for games and everything that she does. That applies to gym, taking care of her body, her diet, her nutrition and all those other things. She’s been one of the most professional players that I’ve ever had,” he added.

Last season as a whole was slightly hindered but not the end of the world for the 2019 Most Valuable Player. Suffering a high-grade ankle sprain in the mid-December clash against the Southside Flyers, Griffin was sidelined for close to six weeks leading her into the postseason which allowed younger players to get extra minutes in at the tail-end of the season.

Making an early return with three games remaining in the season, Griffin averaged over 10 points and eight rebounds to round out her campaign. Over the course of her 14 regular season games, Griffin managed to maintain a double-double (15 points and 10.8 rebounds per game), averaging 3.2 steals per game and 1.2 blocks to add to the list of statistics. To top off Griffin’s exceptional yet shortened season, the 33-year-old collected 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds each time out in their championship playoff run. This also included a seven-steal performance against the Melbourne Boomers in Game 1 of their semi-final series.

“Her work ethic allows her to compete and get those numbers still,” Goriss said. “If you just saw her preparation in how she practices, you can see it is exactly how she plays. There’s no middle ground and there’s no taking it easy. She has to do everything perfect or to the best of her ability. So, it doesn’t really surprise me that she gets the numbers that she gets, but I do sometimes take it for granted,” Goriss said.

More important to the local fan base was the fact that Griffin’s announcement to return emerged a day after her counterpart Marianna Tolo. With the two leaders making their intentions for next season public knowledge, Goriss also reflected on Griffin’s style of leadership and how she complements Tolo in that regard.

“They’re kind of like the yin and the yang,” said the head coach. “They’re both very similar, but their styles of leadership are very different. Tolo is more the caring type and Kelsey is very ‘grab it by the scruff of the neck’. But that’s why they both work so well together, because they’re similar in some respects and different in others. It’s the perfect combination.”

Griffin was originally preparing for 3×3 basketball for the Olympics, but she disclosed that she has been nursing her injured shoulder during the off-season instead. “This down time has been incredible for reflection. I have had a good chance to slow down and re-prioritise what is important to me. It’s been really good for me,” Griffin said.

The WNBL has yet to confirm the start date for the WNBL21 season, but Griffin goes into the 2020/21 campaign a four-time WNBL champion, a League MVP and a three-time Finals MVP. Needless to say, onlookers are eager to see what the Alaskan-born phenom has in store for the next chapter of her career.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Keely Froling

FOR whoever Paul Goriss decides to replace Kia Nurse’s role in the starting five rotation, it will be a monumental ask to say the least. As it stands, Keely Froling’s increased presence in the frontcourt seems to be a likely option for the 24-year-old, after re-signing for one more season with the two-time championship side.

The chance to go for the team’s third title in as many seasons was one of the primary factors for Froling, while completing the later stages of her physiotherapy degree in the nation’s capital was another. Nevertheless, Froling proved in WNBL20 that she is ready for a bigger role in the team, following the untimely absence of captain Kelsey Griffin due to injury.

After seeing a dramatic increase in court time against the Bendigo Spirit in mid-December, a 30-point, 10-rebound and three assist showing instilled confidence in Goriss, reassuring the head coach he had made the right decision during the homestretch of last season with his captain absent.

“Keely has a similar DNA to Kelsey in that she’s a warrior and she’s prepared to play whatever role she needs to play,” Goriss said to Draft Central. “The game that stood out to me is when she got the broken nose and came back on to the court to make the game-winning shot. That shows the toughness of her and the all-around character Keely has. No matter what, she wants to win, she wants to compete, she wants to get better and she will do anything to do that,” Goriss explained. Froling would summarise an excellent season overall, displaying 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and close to one and a half assists per contest over 18 regular season games.

While Froling makes the most of her offseason back at home in Townsville, Goriss is working away to enhance the full effect of his frontcourt as he feels that signings like Froling and new-comer Mikaela Ruef will drastically improve the side’s depth down low and around the ring.

“Keely can swing between the three and the four which is good if we want to play tall or small ball,” Goriss said. “We could have done something similar last year if Ruef was available, but it has served us well in the prior two seasons for our sides. I do think we have one of the better frontcourts in the league with our depth and our size and I also love our flexibility, where each player provides something a little bit different as well,” Goriss added.

The environment of the Canberra Capitals is frequently referenced by all its players, whether past or present, that the club breeds a competitive nature in its squad. This rings true for Froling personally, as she believes that returning to the squad is what is best in her Olympic preparations for 3×3 basketball. “Playing and training every day in an environment that is really high performance that we are lucky enough to have at the Caps, is going to help immensely. Just being able to get back on the court and play at a high level is what is going to help the most,”  Froling said in an announcement by the club.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Maddison Rocci

QUICKLY becoming one of the Women’s National Basketball League’s (WNBL) most prominent guards, Maddison Rocci earned her stripes last season and now looks to develop even further with the Capitals in WNBL21, as she once again eyes up a starting five spot.

Rocci was one of the six members to be re-signed during Canberra’s signing blitz, where head coach Paul Goriss solidified his core group from last season’s title-winning season (excluding imports) in the space of a few days during the Free Agency signing period, and the former Victorian was more than happy to re-join the cast of last season.

“The thing that motivated me to come back to the Caps again was the team that Paul was putting together and the people that were returning from last season,” Rocci said. “I have also developed so much being at the Caps under Paul, so I’m ready to take the next step and improve my game even more.”

Maintaining nine points, 2.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game whilst shooting an impressive 40 per cent from the field, Goriss would deem it suitable to gradually increase Rocci’s output regarding court time over the course of WNBL20. Playing below 30 minutes per game to open up the first few outings of last season, Rocci soon received regular 30-plus minute stints throughout the rest of her 2019/20 journey.

After a stellar season and the second WNBL title of her career to this point, it seemed the 22-year-old could not have a better year. That was until mid-June, where Rocci received her first nomination to the Australian Opals Squad, a feat she could not believe at first. “I got an email from Sandy about being named in the Opals squad and to be honest I had to look at it a couple of times and re-read it to make sure it was right. I was honestly lost for words,” Rocci said.

“It’s been such a big dream of mine to be named in the Opals squad, so it was a very special and proud moment,” she added.

Goriss’ assessment of Rocci last season was a positive one, outlining the level of consistency and dedication that the young gun displayed over that time. But like fellow guard, Tahlia Tupaea, Goriss wants to see more of an increased role with the Caps for the upcoming fixture and sees Rocci’s recent performances in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL) with the Sunshine Coast Rip City as a good testing ground for that purpose.

“It’s really important because she does have a specific role with us at the Capitals, but being able to step away from that and become a go-to player that’s going to handle the ball, that’s going to take on scoring responsibilities and have leadership within the group is really important,” Goriss said in an interview with Draft Central. “I’m hoping she brings that [experience] back for pre-season with the Caps, as it is a great learning curve to have to take on those extra responsibilities,” he noted.

Rocci currently leads the QBL in points maintaining a massive 34.8 points per game, while also sitting third across the competition in rebounds, averaging 11.3. Rocci also leads the league in free throws made with 44 and is second in total three-pointers made with 25. With numbers like this, Rocci looks to be one of the WNBL’s biggest improvers if she maintains this level of form.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Tahlia Tupaea

THIS week Draft Central takes a look at the reigning back-to-back champions of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in the University of Canberra Capitals, as they look to cement their dynasty for the upcoming WNBL21 campaign with Paul Goriss and his side searching for Canberra’s tenth title in franchise history.

In what will be a slightly different looking squad to last season due to import restrictions, the Capitals will be missing two integral pieces that were responsible for bringing the side so much success in WNBL20. The two being last year’s WNBL League MVP and Rachel Sporn Medallist Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa.

To fill any holes with the departure of Epoupa, the Capitals organisation did not have to look too far in attaining someone to fill the point-guard spot. Tahlia Tupaea, who has already spent what some would call an entire career at the Sydney University Flames, will make the move to the ACT to don the Canberra Blue and provide her services to the cross-state rivals.

Tupaea first stepped foot onto a WNBL floor at the age of 15, and since then has been a member of the Flames family to this day. Over the eight seasons she competed for Sydney, Tupaea did find title success in 2017, but since then has undergone a less than lucky stint with injury. Nevertheless, at the prime age of 23, the Minnesota Lynx draftee will aim to be pivotal to Goriss’ squad next year.

“There was a limited amount of Australian point-guards out there at the moment who were a Free Agent this year and suited to what we were looking for,” Goriss said. “She’s a great passer, she shoots the ball very well, she’s a really strong defender and she’ll complement our squad very well,” he added.

For Goriss personally, he was taken aback by Tupaea’s performances in prior matchups with the former Flame, as those contests left an impressionable mark on the Coach of the Year. “There’s times where I know in the last two years, she’s kicked our arse,” Goriss said. “We’ve tried to put her on bigger players, quicker players, smaller players, but she’s got that strength and that ability to get into the lane and drive on people,” he explained. In short, it is safe to say that the Capitals’ head coach is glad to be on the same side of Tupaea from now on.

For the Penrith-born star, she managed 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and two assists per contest over 13 games last season before her year was cut short, but Tupaea sees a great program at Canberra which she gravitated to during the Free Agency Period, according to her announcement.

“I chose to sign with the Caps because it felt like a really good fit with the coaching staff and players who have a wealth of knowledge and experience,” noted Tupaea. “It isn’t far from home in Sydney, so family and friends can still come to support me.”

“I am looking for a new path in my basketball journey, I have had a few niggling injuries so I’m looking to rejuvenate my confidence and passion for the game and immerse myself in the Caps,” Tupaea said.

While Tupaea displays a unique skillset at her position, Goriss does envision some changes to her game, most of which will be increases in her workload as he looks to get her back to peak form where the Lynx drafted her back in 2017. “She’s going to have to step up her offensive production, but her number one role is defence and that’s a big reason why we signed her,” Goriss said. “She plays with no fear and she is a locked in defender with a great attitude and mindset. She’ll mostly have every hard matchup in the guard position.”

WNBL Player Spotlight: Townsville Fire – Zitina Aokuso

IN terms of the biggest and most anticipated returns to the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) next season, the re-arrival of 21-year-old Zitina Aokuso is up there across the league, with the 193cm-tall center set to take the league by storm after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) related injury.

Townsville Fire head coach Shannon Seebohm seemed enthusiastic when asked about the avenues that Aokuso could start to open up for his offence, a tactic he has not yet employed fully to this stage. “It really hurt us last season not having Zitina,” Seebohm said. “She gives you a little bit more of that athletic punch, and when she’s fit and healthy, she’s great at running the floor.”

“We’re going to benefit greatly from having her back this year and she’s been working extremely hard to rehab her knee and get back fit and healthy on the floor,” the Townsville coach added. “Last year I think we struggled at times defensively not having that bigger and more physical presence around the rim and the post, as well as help-side defence and being able to challenge shots at the rim,” listed Seebohm.

For Aokuso personally, missing out on last season was one of the hardest things she has ever endured, but learned the true meaning of what a teammate was and how she could motivate her peers without being on the court.

“Being on the sideline last season was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” Aokuso said. “The main takeaways from an off-court perspective is that I’ll never take the opportunity to the thing I love and being able to be active for granted. Knowing I couldn’t be on the court, I managed to find ways I could still stay involved,” she explained.

Simple things like dancing on the sideline, giving advice where she thought it could help or just being a positive energy on the bench were all examples of being a good teammate for the young gun. Additionally, it is Aokuso’s work outside of the stadium that also places her within a well-respected part of the Townsville community, helping create exercise videos for schools and participating in school visits alongside her teammates, which the Fire prides themselves on as a franchise.

“For our club, it’s basically the reason we exist,” Seebohm said. “That’s our mission and that’s why we’re here, to be out in our community. We’re a community-based club, so we rely on sponsorship and we rely on people coming to watch games.”

“So I think it’s great for Zitina. She’s done such a good job in our community program this offseason, but it’s just a great thing that young females in North-Queensland can see such positive female role models and be able to see what is possible,” he finalised.

For Zitina’s Young Guns in the WNBL Feature – Click HERE

WNBL Player Spotlight: Townsville Fire – Nadeen Payne

FILLING Townsville’s power forward position is someone that has probably spent the most time out of all her teammates in the tropical Queensland city. Nadeen Payne, who was born in Townsville, will return to the Fire for the first time since the 2011/12 season after almost nine years away from the Sunshine State.

Following her initial two seasons with the Fire, Payne moved to South Australia to become a member of the Adelaide Lightning. After two seasons with the Lightning, the 27-year-old headed back to Queensland to become a part of the South East Queensland Stars’ inaugural season. It was after the Stars organisation went defunct after one season that Payne would then call Bendigo home for the next three years, plying her trade with the Spirit and their NBL1 affiliate, the Braves, during the off-seasons before heading out west in 2019.

After a solid season with the Perth Lynx during the WNBL20 season averaging 10.2 points per game alongside an average of 4.6 in the category of rebounds, Payne proved herself a severe threat to opposition sides. Notable performances last season included a 22-point and six-rebound performance against Adelaide, as well as a 10-point and 10-rebound double-double against the eventual champions, University of Canberra Capitals.

It was finally announced by the Fire on June 19, that the Townsville product was heading back home and Payne expressed her elation instantly, “I am really excited to be coming home, I can’t wait to play for Shannon [Seebohm], I have really enjoyed my conversations with him and the team he is putting together sounds great, I think we will surprise a lot of people when the season starts,” Payne said.

“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.”

While Head Coach Shannon Seebohm realises that Payne possesses a unique skillset as a power forward that can shoot the ball, he finds that her ball-handling is at an elite level for players at her position.

“The thing that I knew of, but has still surprised me since I’ve been here, is her ability to put the ball on the floor as well,” Seebohm mentioned. “She has really good balance and she’s been working really hard on her finishing and her strength around the rim, as well as playing with a bit more force.”

“I feel like her skillset is going to be really suited to what we want to be able to do, and she’s going to help make other players better as well,” Seebohm summarised.