A LONG, cold winter has been brushed aside as the summer action heats up for all our competing sides in the Country Basketball League!
CBL PREVIEW – ROUND 1
This season, 57 teams from 35 associations will compete in the Country Basketball League (CBL) as our reigning champions battle it out against familiar faces and new rivals alike to challenge for the championship.
We’ve seen our CBL stars return for the upcoming campaign and this week we’re tipping it off with a look at their Round 1 clashes and scout the big match ups!
Maffra Eagles vs Sale Sonics tips it all off in Gippsland as they celebrate 60 years with this local derby. Maffra has some solid pieces to the puzzle – Sam Whelan and Andrew Quirk return to the line-up in 2018/19 – but Sale has kept a fair chunk of its 2017/18 core. Their top four scorers Billy Hughes, Mehmed Bektas, Luke Williams and Robert Ball are back and continuity like that is hard to knock over. Expect fireworks in round one.
Warragul Warriors has the experience but Traralgon T-Birds are the plucky, young upstart. Can the T-Birds get out of the blocks early through the likes of Luis D’Angelo and Christian D’Angelo?
Korumburra Wildcats vs Moe Meteors – Moe, reigning premiers will look to pick up where they left off! The reigning Gippsland premiers have kept their core intact – with Harry Pepper, Nick Sedley, Jayden Van Dyk and Stephen O’Brien returning – and are set start the season strongly.
Warragul Warriors vs Bairnsdale Bullets will see Defensive Player of the Year Andrew Savige continue to lead the Bullets, but Warragul has some wise heads who will match up strongly on him. Stay tuned…
Korumburra Wildcats will then host the returning wanderers – Western Port Steelers. The Steelers have stayed strong in spite of the roadblocks put up in their way following the 2016 stadium fire. They can travel though and will bring their hardened intensity to this season.
Churchill Blue Devils will host Maffra Eagles as all eyes look towards perennial powerhouse Jordan Canovan. He led the league last year with 27.29 points per game and doesn’t look like slowing down at all. Maffra needs to stall his advance to see any chance of taking this one out.
Moe Meteors hosts Traralgon T-Birds to round out Gippsland Men’s first round.
Warragul Warriors will be out to impress in their first outing of the 2018/19 season, as they aim to push back into finals. Mikaela Dickson is a big in for the Warriors – with her track record speaking for itself as a state representative and as a former WNBL-listed development player. Coming off a good year with Chelsea Big V, she’ll add that extra firepower to make the Warriors one to watch out for alongside up-and-comers Shanara Notman and Makaela Zeldenryk. Traralgon T-Birds on the other hand look vastly different – they’ll need plenty from their younger brigade to keep up the strong work that won them the flag in 2017/18.
Korumburra Wildcats vs Moe Meteors – it was as close as it could get last year trying to split these two. 2nd vs 3rd and we needed head-to-head to split the two for home court advantage in the semi-final. Will they rise as high again this year? Jamie-Lee Jeffs is coming off a red-hot Big V season at Casey and will look to continue the good form with a fairly young brigade. All Star Five member Carly Mullen-Bianconi is back to lead the Meteors and will relish another chance to stamp her authority on the conference and potentially go one better in 2018/19. Pen this in as a result to follow.
Maffra Eagles has gone fairly young this season but retain their one-two scoring punch in Jazmin Allman and Coco Henry. The Eagles and will lock horns with an equally young Sale Sonics, which looks to bounce back after languishing near the bottom of the ladder in 2017/18. They’ve retained plenty of talent from last year’s campaign though, with leading scorers Melanie Johnston and Staci Scott returning for a fresh season.
Moe Meteors vs Traralgon T. Birds… the Gippsland Women’s grand final rematch. This will be a belter. What else needs to be said? Let the action unfold and speak for itself!
NORTH EAST MEN
Seymour Blasters vs Benalla Breakers sees the reigning premiers hosting the new boys on the block. They’re young but the Breakers are keen to make an early impact – bringing the bus down the hill to get their supporters to the debut clash! But optimism and hope doesn’t curtail the might of the Blasters – especially with scoring threats Liam Killey and Robbie Sartori back in for another year. It’s a lopsided challenge first up for the Breakers but who knows? It’ll be a good measure of their talents heading forward.
Wangaratta Warriors vs Myrtleford Saints is a nicely developing, simmering rivalry. The neighbours didn’t have all that much to crow home about in 2017/18 but they split their results to build the suspense. How will Myrtleford replace last season’s leading scorer Jalen Barker and his productive 23 point per game? Liam Wright had a strong year in Big V and will return to the CBL with plenty of form under his belt in 2018.
Wodonga Wolves will look to avenge its near miss in last year’s grand final – Jarrod Ardern and Mitchell Donovan have returned and will and face Wallan Panthers – led by Luke Leisegang, Lincoln Stewart and Sebastian Villegas in 2018/19.
NORTH EAST WOMEN
Wangaratta Lady Warriors will hoist their championship banner over the weekend as the reigning titleholders take on Myrtleford Saints. It’ll be a new-look roster for the Lady Warriors but a winning culture spreads across anyone who steps into it. Myrtleford has leading scorers Grace McKerral and Abbey Zamperoni back in the line-up and will look to take that step up into the finals this season.
Swan Hill Flyers will host Echuca Pirates and Kyneton to tip off the season in the North East. Swan Hill will be led by Laura Anderson, Kelsey McCoy and Tess Denham in 2018/19 while Kyneton has plenty in the tank with All Star Five members Jess Mangan and Molly Greetham set to roll around again this season.
Echuca Pirates will host Bendigo Braves to cap off the round as Echuca looks to start the season strongly through the likes of Morgan Dingwall, Lucy Eishold and Meg Eishold. Bendigo is set to shine again with Danielle O’Toole returning alongside Sharna Appleby and Tess Barnes just to name a few of a young, multi-skilled roster.
NORTH WEST MEN
Mildura Heat vs Kyneton Tigers is the battle of two teams on the rise. Both teams will look to improve from their debut season, but Mildura always has the powerhouse presence of Calvin Henry to lean on. Dominating Big V across the winter, Henry’s form-line is staggering as he looks to impact the CBL with similar skill and power.
Maryborough Blazers vs Castlemaine Cannons will be another local derby to keep an eye on as high scoring superstar Matthew Johnston returns for the Blazers after last playing in the 2013/14 season. He joins conference leading scorer Brady Neil – who racked up 21 points per game.
2017/18 wasn’t much to write home about for Swan Hill or Echuca, but the fresh season brings fresh opportunities. The likes of Zac Denham, Marcus Wattie and Lachlan Gardner return for the Flyers while the Pirates’ Liam Tenace, Tyler Phillips and Matt Kellett are back to lead the side.
Echuca Pirates will then host Bendigo Braves, with Tanner Rayner and Rhys Brown back for another run in CBL.
Swan Hill Flyers finish the round against Kyneton Tigers, with the Tigers looking to improve on their debut season with leading scorer Matthew Quinn suiting up alongside Dylan Tunn, Matthew Bourke and Ethan Clark.
SOUTH WEST MEN
Geelong Supercats vs Mt Gambier Lakers is a highly anticipated matchup. Mt Gambier have been the class of the conference for the last seven years winning five South West titles. Kane de Wit is the back-to-back reigning MVP and leading scorer at 24.2 points per game. Geelong will make their men’s debut with a good mix of youth and experience alike.
Horsham Hornets vs Portland Coasters will see the North West premiers stepping back into the South West with high-scoring duo Tim Pickert and Matt Lovel, who combined for 36 points per game – lining up alongside floor general Cam Bruce. It was a difficult year for the Portland men but Jackson Dunlop, Trenton Johnson and Nathan Valori return to the roster and add Vic Country representative Patrick Burgoyne to the mix.
Bellarine Storm vs Warrnambool Seahawks ushers in Warrnambool’s return to the league, which will feature some very familiar faces as Matthew Rea, Jack Patterson and Adam Lawson continue their year in the Warrnambool colours. Bellarine’s debut year will start with a bang as Ash Cannon and Nathan Friend lacing up this season to add to the intrigue of a highly-competitive South West Division. Bellarine is celebrating the first game with the Melbourne United bus at the game for the debut of the Storm.
— Star Weekly Sport (@starweeklysport) October 3, 2018
Bacchus Marsh Lions vs Hamilton Hurricanes sees two teams making their CBL debut. Bacchus Marsh has taken the leap into the senior spotlight and looks to impress in their inaugural campaign. Jordan Kirk has plenty of experience with Melton in Big V will unite with Billy Feben, Jake Raynor, Mitch Barnes and Daniel Jackson. Hamilton is making the step up and making some good early impressions.
Terang Tornadoes vs Colac Kookas – Reigning premiers Colac, without All-star guard Lewis Varley, have Jordan Lingard and Nathan Lemke returning from US College to bolster the front-court. Terang will feature the veteran partnership of Bobby Cunningham and Dean Brebner in addition to All-star and three-point threat Scott Judd.
Terang Tornadoes then host Mt Gambier Lakers before Colac Kookas face Geelong Supercats to round out the weekend.
SOUTH WEST WOMEN
Geelong Supercats vs Millicent Magic will have a lot of eyes on it. Millicent was the only side to knock over Geelong in 2017/18 and will come back with revenge on the agenda. Will these sides pick up where they left off last season? It was a case of sliding doors and missed opportunities between these two as Millicent – one of the form sides – narrowly dropped its semi-final 64-66 to Portland, despite the efforts of Ashleigh Berman and Olivia Fuller. Geelong went on to take the title as Georgia Varley shot the lights out – knocking in five threes over Portland. Expect these sides to ignite their rivalry once again in this round one showdown. There will be plenty of new faces in the Supercats line-up this year though… can the Baby Supercats go around once again? Millicent’s All Star Five tandem Emily Winter and Olivia Fuller are suiting up again in 2018/19 and will provide plenty for the South Australian onslaught in the South West Women’s Conference.
Horsham Lady Hornets vs Portland Coasters will see a rare “runner-up vs runner-up” clash, but there’s plenty to play for as these sides look to equally go one better. Horsham has retained its strong core that powered through NW Women in 2017/18 off the work of Emalie Iredell, Caitlin Storey, Olivia Jones and Georgia Hiscock. Portland’s Alana Strom has returned on the back of an incredible Big V year with Warrnambool and will Cherie Beckingham, Courtney Gadson and Taylah Nelson. This will be a potent clash and we can’t wait to see it unfold.
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Jess Watson – A huge inclusion for the CBL women is Jess Watson. Jess has an unquestioned basketball resume having played junior state basketball for Victoria Country and senior representative basketball for the Geelong Supercats at SEABL and BigV levels. Returning to Bellarine for the first time since her very early basketball days Jess is a huge get for the CBL Women and will a crucial part of the team this summer. #CBL #CanYouHearIt #TheresAStormComing
Bellarine Storm vs Warrnambool Mermaids sees new sides tipping off. Warrnambool is soaring after a superb Big V Division 1 championship victory over Casey. It will however be the junior Mermaids taking the reins in CBL as Molly McKinnon, Abbey Sutherland and Meg Sutherland look to impose themselves on the competition. Bellarine as an association continues to grow day-by-day and their ambition has brought them into the CBL. Jessica Watson and Bree Matthews will bring plenty of experience to the Storm as they stood out in Big V Division 1 for the Supercats this year.
Terang Tornadoes vs Colac Kookas will see returning leading scorer Georgia Finn, Emily Murfitt and Emma Hawker back in the Kookas’ colours this season, while Leah Bartlett comes off a Big V championship win with Warrnambool with Jaymie Finch and Libby Moloney returning in good form for the Tornadoes.
Colac Kookas will finish their opening round double-header as they host Geelong Supercats.
Bellarine Storm wraps up the round as they host Millicent Magic.