19/04/2024

UC Capitals young gun Jade Melbourne. (Picture: WNBL)

After a challenging finish to last season, the UC Capitals are turning a new leaf ahead of WNBL 2022/23. A new coach as well as a host of new players brings a new identity for the Capitals.

After the cancellation of their semi-final due to a COVID outbreak and fixturing issues, the UC Capitals look towards the brighter horizons that await in the new season.

The introduction of new coach Kristen Veal as well as notable additions in Rebecca Pizzey, Rae Burrell, Sherrie Calleia, Dekeiya Cohen and Emilee Whittle-Harmon means the squad is vastly different from last season.

Speaking to media at the WNBL 2022/23 season launch, young star Jade Melbourne explained their approach to the upcoming season.

“Last year was disappointing, you don’t love to work and make a finals position to have it taken away from you,” Melbourne told The Inner Sanctum.

“We have so many fresh faces and we are creating a new identity, so I feel like some of us from last season take that little bit of unfinished business into this season. But it’s a new group, so we are creating a new legacy [with] a new coach, what’s done is done and we are focusing on season 2022/23.”

She also speaks about the expectations of the team ahead of the season. Expecting to be underestimated the Capitals hope to prove everyone wrong.

“Being a fresh group we have gone in [and] everyone feels like a bit of an underdog in our team, which is great,” Melbourne said.

“We fly under the radar which we don’t mind, we have plenty of good people [and] some really good athletes.

“We are unpredictable in our play and I think we are going to play a really great brand of basketball. Vealy [Kristen Veal] has put in a great system, and everyone is just looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

Veal comes into the Capitals’ head coaching position after a storied career with the club. Winning three championships as a player, she earns a promotion after six years as the assistant coach to former Capitals coach Paul Gorris.

Melbourne speaks very highly of her new coach, explaining that she is a coach that considers the whole human behind the basketballer.

“For ‘Vealy’, she picks high character people first and good basketballers second, so it speaks volumes [that] our group have come in [and] we all get on really well on and off the court,” Melbourne said.

“[It’s] just a credit to the people she has brought in. We’ve worked over pre-season, [and] the pieces just are fitting now, it’s looking like a complete puzzle.

“Our system’s great, she has put in a system that suits [our] players, not just something that she has created and wants to work [with]. It’s a really exciting brand of basketball we are going to play and we are all looking forward to it.”

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Coming into her second season at WNBL level, Melbourne is becoming one of the players to watch in the league. She talks about adding leadership to her resume this season with her knowledge about the system coming in handy amongst the newness at the Capitals.

“For me I am still young, but I think I can be a leader for this group,” Melbourne explained.

“I have been in the Canberra system for three years, so I know what Canberra basketball is about. I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with the team, playing a bigger role obviously this year and I am just excited to keep growing my game.

“I don’t [want to] set too many expectations for myself, I just love to play the game of basketball so I will be myself still just in a greater role for the team. I am excited for it.”

When looking to leaders in the team, Melbourne doesn’t have far to look. Veteran duo Alex Bunton and Brittany Smart have become role models, helping Melbourne develop her game and leadership as well as helping the culture.

“It is unreal [to play with those two], Bunts [Alex Bunton] has had such an amazing career and Brit [Smart] is in her 16th season this year playing pro ball.

“To have people like [Bunton around], you are constantly learning just by having conversations [with] people like that.

“Everyone is held accountable in our group, everyone gets on really well so nothing is personal, it is just a great environment to be around.”

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