The Melbourne Boomers will be looking to defend the championship this season. (Photo: Melbourne Boomers/ Design: Will Cuckson)

The Boomers will be looking to go back-to-back this season after a championship-winning 2021/22 WNBL campaign while ushering in a new era. Chris Lucas joins the club as the new head coach, taking over from Guy Molloy.

Last season:

First (Premiers – 12 wins, five losses)

It was the ultimate fairytale for the Melbourne Boomers, after taking out the championship in Guy Molloy’s final season at the helm.

While it was a slow start to the season with a four-point loss to the Bendigo Spirit to start the season, they were able to dominate from that point forward, having a strong season and finishing off as the minor premiers.

The Boomers cruised through the semi-finals series, defeating Adelaide Lightning in both matches, then went on to face Perth Lynx in the Grand Final series. It wasn’t the start that the Boomers may have hoped for, losing the first game of the series by 26 points.

It was all up from there, with the Boomers drawing the series with a one-point win over in Perth, before coming home to Melbourne to take out the championship at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Parkville, defeating the Lynx by 18 points.

Biggest in:

The Melbourne Boomers have welcomed WNBA rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa to the ranks for 2022/23. After a successful season with the LA Sparks, Nelson-Ododa will be making the move to Melbourne to help the Boomers in their quest for back-to-back championships.

With the loss of Australian Liz Cambage to the LA Sparks side, Nelson-Ododa stepped up in her absence. She led the Sparks in blocks, with 0.8 per game, and averaged four points per game.

The loss of Ezi Magbegor means the 22-year-old will more than likely claim that starting centre spot and will work well with the likes of Cayla George and Penina Davidson throughout the season.

Biggest out:

Ezi Magbegor has been a mainstay in the Melbourne Boomers line-up since she first joined the club for the 2018/19 WNBL season. Now the Boomers will be facing their first season without the talented centre. 

Magbegor will be heading to Europe to play for Sopron, which means there is a big gap to fill for the reigning champions. Across the 2021/22 WNBL season Magbegor averaged 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and was named the Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year.

Her athleticism and ability to run both offence and defence was unmatched across her time at the Boomers, and more recently for Seattle Storm in the WNBA.

Player to watch:

Penina Davidson will be coming into the 2021/22 season after a strong NBL1 season for the Cairns Dolphins, playing alongside Boomers teammate Cayla George.

Davidson averaged 19.06 points and 11.56 rebounds per game in NBL1 and was a key pillar in her club securing a spot in the NBL1 North Finals.

The Tall Fern was solid in games last season for the Boomers, especially in the side’s Round 10 match against the Perth Lynx. She was able to stand up in the absence of Opals Tess Madgen, George and Magbegor.

Penina Davidson in action for the Boomers. (Photo: Melbourne Boomers)

Davidson finished that match with 13 points and nine rebounds and sent the game to overtime, levelling the score with a minute to play on the clock. 

The 27-year-old will be looking to step up this season, with Magbegor departing the club, Davidson will look to use her height to her advantage and assist defensively.

She has the potential to fill that void that was left by Magbegor at the defensive end.

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Starting five:

The Inner Sanctum’s predicted starting five for the Melbourne Boomers. (Design: Will Cuckson)

Full squad:

Cayla George, Tess Madgen, Tiffany Mitchell, Kristy Wallace, Mia Murray, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Penina Davidson, Lily Scanlon, Rachel Brewster, Lou Brown, Lily Carmody*, Lauryn Hippolite*, Paige Burrows* 

Ins: Olivia Nelson-Ododa (LA Sparks), Kristy Wallace (Southside Flyers), Mia Murray (Townsville Fire) 

Outs: Ezi Magbegor (Sopron), Lindsay Allen (Gorzow W), Carley Ernst (Southside Flyers), Izzy Wright (Retired)

*development players

Fixture highlights:

The Melbourne Boomers will kick off their 2022/23 campaign in a Grand Final rematch, coming up against the Perth Lynx over in the West.

With both teams undergoing a few changes, it’ll be a great test to see how they match up against each other this season, with the Lynx looking to enact revenge after their Grand Final heartbreak.

There’s no bigger rivalry in the WNBL than the one between the Boomers and cross-town rivals in the Southside Flyers. Plenty of players have made the switch to either the Flyers or Boomers over the years, which includes Kristy Wallace and Carley Ernst this season.

Fans won’t have to wait long for the cross-town clash, with the first instalment of the battle happening in Round 2 at the State Basketball Centre.

Last season, it was the Boomers that claimed the Michele Timms Cup, having defeated the Flyers on all three occasions. The Flyers have made some strong additions since then, with the legendary Lauren Jackson and WNBA talent Kayla Thornton joining the squad.

The Boomers will have to wait until Round 4 to play their first home game, set to take on the Adelaide Lightning at Parkville.

The clash will be an interesting one, with newly appointed head coach Chris Lucas set to face his old side after departing the Lightning over the off-season.

What to expect:

With a few big departures in the Boomers squad with Magbegor, Izzy Wright and reigning Rachael Sporn Medallist Lindsay Allen, it will be interesting to see how the side goes with the changes in the line-up.

They’ve been able to recruit well with Wallace, Murray and Nelson-Ododa coming into the team. With a new coach, we’ll see what spin Lucas puts on this strong Boomers side.

While the side is yet to get a win in the practice matches against the other WNBL sides, the side defeated the Tall Ferns by 15 points. The Boomers will be boosted with Opals Madgen and George re-joining the squad in the coming days.

One thing that the side will be looking to fix up from last season is their ability to put teams away. There were a few occasions where the Boomers let teams back into the contest after dominating early on in games.

The last word:

There will be high expectations for the Boomers’ title defence, with strong recruits able to fill the voids of departing stars. Players like Davidson, Scanlon, Brown and Brewster will be looking to step up and make their mark on the side.

While it may take a few games for the Boomers to settle, expect the reigning champions to be at the pointy end of the ladder once again this season, with the side once again among the teams challenging for the championship.

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