WNBL season preview: players to watch and best team

For Australian basketball fans it feels like too long since we have watched our nation's best battle it out on the basketball court. It all starts again with the 2023/23 WNBL season starting this Wednesday night.

But before that, catch up with us on anything you may have missed during the offseason.

New year, new team

This offseason has seen a relatively large amount of player turnover in comparison to previous years. Many players have found new homes and it's sure to shake up the competition.

Losing two Opals' is never an ideal start, but lucky for Melbourne Boomers coach Chris Lucas there is a never-ending stream of talent at his disposal. Off the back of a final's appearance in the previous season, Lucas and the Boomers will be looking to push for more success. Having gained multiple cross town rivals' players in Sara Blicavs (also an Opal), Aimie Rocci and dual athlete, Monique Conti, who have made the move from the Southside Flyers, it's unlikely they will be taking a backwards step. Not to mention the addition of Keely Froling and a few handy imports, the team may be new, but their standard of success hasn't changed.

No Nicholson, no problem. For many teams, losing someone of Nicholson's calibre and leadership would be monumental. But considering Opals' star Sami Whitcomb has joined the Townsville Fire, there's no reason they can't aim for back-to-back championships. Whitcomb will be able to play primarily in the two spot as Steph Reid will look to continue her strong form under coach Shannon Seebohm. Whitcomb isn't the only big signing for the Fire, with the return of Alice Kunek to the WNBL -- this team will yet again be tough to beat.

Five players to watch

Between the youth on the rise, the ever-improving Aussie talent and the high-end imports, there are plenty of players to watch this season. Here are the top five:

Alice Kunek (Townsville Fire): As mentioned above, Kunek is making her return to the WNBL after stints playing in Europe. Her experience will be invaluable to her teammates, as well as her ability to stretch the floor and score in a myriad of ways. It will be exciting to see her back on home soil and only enhancing the level of the competition.

Isabelle Bourne (Adelaide Lightning): Bourne has returned to Australia after a successful college career at the University of Nebraska. A big that can knock down the three ball is always a plus, her height, combined with her agile frame, will allow her to take on players both under the basket and off the dribble, not to mention her willingness to run the floor in transition. She will make a great addition to the Lightning.

Courtney Woods (Townsville Fire): It has been a stellar year for Townsville's Courtney Woods. Basketball may be a team sport, but the accolades that Woods has won in 2023 attest to her induvial effort and ability. Often in the shadows of her talented teammates, look for her to stand up next to those big names this season and continue to build on her game.

Maddison Rocci (Southside Flyers): Named as vice-captain for her Flyers team, Rocci will be looking to go from strength to strength this year. As the 2024 Olympics grow closer, she will be wanting to solidify herself as one of the top point guards in the league and give herself the best chance to earn a spot on the Opals. Who better to learn from than Australia's best ever player, with Lauren Jackson returning to the Flyers.

Gemma Potter (UC Capitals): Hesitant to add Potter to this list, only due to the pressure she must be feeling off the back of her second ACL comeback in just two years. However, her determination and talent will no doubt see her looking healthy and confident as her Capitals team will greatly benefit from her presence on court.

Strongest team

After a tumultuous year, for many reasons, the Sydney Flames have a new look heading into the 2023/24 season.

The Flames' new outfit may give fans a sense of déjà vu, with a few Melbourne Boomers players venturing north to play under their old flame of a coach, Guy Molloy. Tess Madgen and Cayla George have played together for a few years at the Boomers, and as Opals' teammates, and will be looking to bring success to their new club. They are in good company, with a couple of exciting imports, the likes of Lauren Nicholson also making the move across and a bench full of promising youth. They will be the team to beat!