The Adelaide Lightning will chase greatness with a new-look list this WNBL season., (Picture: Adelaide Lightning; Design: Will Cuckson)

With a newly refreshed list, the Adelaide Lightning will look to make a deeper run at finals than last season. Going out in back-to-back semi-finals losses, they look to new head coach Nat Hurst to get them back to championship glory for the first time since 2008.

Last season

Fourth (10 wins, seven losses)

Getting back to the finals after missing out in the 2020/21 season, the Lightning only just got over the line after looking promising, dominant and unstoppable at times.

The difference between their best and worst form was too great, and they were often exposed by their role-players with Alanna Smith and Steph Talbot often left to shoulder the load.

Losing four out of five games leading into the finals series, the momentum was not with the Lightning, which resulted in some loss in form and confidence from most of the playing group. Their two semi-finals were blow-out results, which soured the year even more so for the team.

Without Smith as well as the two imports not coming back to Adelaide (Kylee Shook and Kianna Williams) and a new head coach, Adelaide will be looking to solidify their list going forward to make a championship tilt.

Biggest in:

The biggest addition to the Lightning this off-season is Lauren Mansfield, who returns to the club after eight years away playing for the UC Capitals, Perth Lynx and Sydney Flames. The 32-year-old shooting guard comes home to Adelaide to link up with her former teammate and now coach in Hurst.

A former co-captain of the Lynx, she brings leadership and experience to a largely young and new look team. She averages 13 points and 70 per cent free throw accuracy in the last season, although this was cut short due to a calf tendon tear.

In the NBL1 season she suited up for the Gold Coast Rollers, where she averaged 18.63 points, 5.63 assists and 5.75 rebounds.

Coming off a bronze medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games alongside Marena Whittle, she will be looking to make an impression on the home fans.

Biggest out:

Alanna Smith is the biggest loss this off-season due to the amount of work she did offensively and defensively for the Lightning.

After representing the Opals recently, she joins Polish club Gorzów after a busy WNBL off-season, playing with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA and the NBL1 with the Townsville Flames.

Smith was the highest scorer for the Lightning in WNBL 2021/22, averaging 17 points and a double-double, being a key part of their offence and scoring power. She ended up sharing MVP honours with her captain Steph Talbot which will be hard for the Lightning to replace.

Player to watch

Abby Cubillo looms as a player to watch crossing to the Adelaide Lightning after a few seasons with the UC Capitals. Coming into a team with two new imports and a host of new talent, Cubillo will have a chance to slot in and play some valuable minutes for her side this WNBL season.

A reasonably young up-and-coming prospect she will be the beneficiary of a new-look team where coach Hurst will look to see what her best side looks like. The 23-year-old guard was impressive in her NBL1 North season where she suited up for the Brisbane Capitals on 20 occasions. She average 19 points, 6.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds with her performance against Mackay the standout of her season.

She was duly rewarded for this season being named in the all-star five for the NBL1 North competition.

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Starting five

The Inner Sanctum’s predicted Adelaide Lightning starting five. (Design: Will Cuckson)

Full squad:

Abby Cubillo, Brooke Basham, Chelsea Brook, Ella Batish, Isobel Borlase, Jacinta Monroe, Kierstan Bell, Lauren Mansfield, Marena Whittle, Sam Simons, Steph Talbot, Tayla Brazel, Molly Coleman*, Rachael Hines*, Jasmin Fejo*

Ins: Abby Cubillo (UC Capitals), Jacinta Monroe (USA), Kierstan Bell (Las Vegas Aces), Lauren Mansfield (Sydney Flames), Isobel Borlase (Centre of Excellence)

Outs: Alanna Smith (Gorzow), Kiana Williams, Kylee Shook, Abigail Wehrung (UC Capitals), Taylor Ortlepp

*development player

Fixture highlights:

One of the fixture highlights will be the match-up in the third game of the season against the reigning champions, the Melbourne Boomers. Ousting the Lightning in back-to-back semi-finals losses, the Lightning will be keen to atone and get their revenge on the Boomers in front of their home crowd.

Another highlight will be both games against the Perth Lynx. Traditional rivals in basketball, the Lynx will be a force again this season after losing the Grand Final series to the Boomers. Getting the win in both games will prove their credentials and go a long way to their goal of getting further in the finals.

What to expect:

With a predicted starting five vastly different to last season with the losses of Williams, Abbey Wehrung, Smith and Shook, it is hard to know what to expect of the Lightning this season.

The additions of Cubillo and Mansfield are solid, with two new imports that are sure to bring some excitement about the new-look team.

With many of players retained from last season having poorer years in terms of output, it is expected that Whittle and Brook in particular will lift with more help from experienced bodies.

If the starting line-up are solid it will ensure that the younger players in Brooke Basham, Ella Batish, Isobel Borlase, Tayla Brazel and Sam Simons will benefit from having time to grow in the league with each game.

The last word:

With a lot of youth, some new faces and some needed experience joining the Lightning, it is an exciting time to be an Adelaide fan.

Hurst looks eager to bring glory back in the coming years, and this could be the beginning of a rising power.

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