Momentum is everything.
It’s what teams look to establish, build on or wrestle back and what players capture and turn into form.
And it’s something the WNBL carries into its new season which tips off on ESPN on Wednesday night.
The bronze-gold glow of the Opals’ FIBA Women’s World Cup campaign, played in front of a heaving home crowd in Sydney, surrounds the national league with eight members of the 12-player team competing in the new campaign including comeback queen Lauren Jackson.
Australia’s greatest ever basketballer, in the dazzling first instalment of her national league career, was part of the iconic AIS 1999 championship where a team of teenagers beat all who came before them. At the peak of her powers, she’d spearhead five more titles with the Canberra Capitals.
Now, after her stunning heroics in the bronze medal game against Canada, the 41-year-old suits up in teal for the Southside Flyers in Melbourne’s south east. The club is preparing for big crowds and long queues at the merchandise stand.
Jackson and Blicavs are the World Cup Opals at the Flyers, while Kristy Wallace crosses from Southside to reigning champs he Melbourne Boomers where she will again take the court with national team mates Tess Madgen and Cayla George.
Tournament All-Star Steph Talbot will again lead Adelaide Lightning. League MVP in 2020 and runner-up last season making her arguably the best player in the competition.
Sami Whitcomb will captain Perth, while reigning Suzy Batkovic Medallist (for the league’s most valuable player) Anneli Maley continues her rise at Bendigo.
And there’s buzz around the WNBL’s arrival on ESPN, the home of all hoops.
Australia’s longest running women’s elite sporting competition now sits rightly amongst the NBL, WNBA, NBA and college basketball.
A midweek fixture helping the competition cement its place on a Wednesday night before the round continues with weekend action streaming on 9 Now.
There is exciting young talent everywhere you look.
In Sydney, it’s Shyla Heal who will be coached by her Dad, Aussie basketball legend Shane, for a second straight year, while Steph Reid and Courtney Woods will build on their breakout seasons with Townsville.
The energetic and selfless Jade Melbourne, the last player cut from the Opals squad but front row at their every World Cup game, is primed for a big season as is team mate Gemma Potter who makes her long-waited return from a knee injury.
There’s reason for excitement in Melbourne where Australian Gems representative Nyadiew Puoch debuts for the Flyers having scored 18 points in her first practice game while 16-year-old Lily Carmody has earned her chance, and begins her career, at the Boomers.
Out west, the Lynx have finally secured the signature of local talent Amy Atwell.
A 2022 WNBA draft pick, Atwell debuts in the WNBL after starting for Los Angeles Sparks this season.
Import Tiffany Mitchell made an instant impression with Melbourne last season and the Indiana Fever guard returns after a championship in her first campaign.
Every other international player is a new face to the league.
The calibre of import talent is strong and varies in an age and experience.
In Adelaide, there’s 22-year-old Kiersten Bell, the 11th selection in this year’s WNBA draft, who was part of Las Vegas Aces championship, while Tianna Hawkins, 31, arrives in Townsville with over 200 games of WNBA experience with Seattle and Washington.
The new season features four new coaches.
The experienced Chris Lucas moves from the Lightning to the Boomers, Kennedy Kereama (former coach of the West Coast Waves now Perth Lynx) will lead Bendigo while two-first time coaches are WNBL champions in their own right.
No player in 43 seasons of the competition has won more titles than new Adelaide coach Nat Hurst (7) who takes the reins after two seasons as an assistant.
In the nation’s capital, Kristen Veal, who was part of that 1999 title with Jackson, takes the next step in her flourishing coaching career leading another team she once played for in the Capitals.
For the last few seasons, whenever Kelly Wilson takes the court she makes history and that trend continues in #WNBL23.
In 2019-20, the veteran point guard overtook Jess Bibby for most games played and in returning last season, after having her first child Ted, became the first WNBL player to reach 400 games.
This season, she returns to home club Bendigo Spirit, after a successful stint and two titles with the Caps, with her great mate Kelsey Griffin.
The dynamic duo has won four titles across two clubs and will look to the take the Spirit back to the promised land.
From Bendigo across to Perth and up to Townsville, there’s storylines across all eight clubs as they chase championship glory in the 43rd season of the WNBL.
Watch the WNBL game of the week every Wednesday night on ESPN