17/04/2024

Following the heartbreaking end to their season campaign last year, will 2023 be the year of the UC Capitals? (Image: UC Capitals/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

The cancellation of their semi-final led to an abrupt end to the University of Canberra Capitals’ 2021/22 campaign. But with a new season right around the corner, they will be aiming to shake up the competition and add another championship to their collection.

Last season

Third (11 wins, six losses)

Falling short of the win in the semi-finals, the UC Capitals headed into the 2021/22 season full of confidence.

Opening up their season campaign with a three-point win against the Sydney Uni Flames, the Capitals followed this up with a string of big wins. Their performance on the court saw them placed third at the end of the regular season.

Canberra begun its championship quest with a 14 point loss in their first semi-final against the Perth Lynx.

Although it would be their only semi-final game played as the UC Capitals withdrew from the competition following COVID-19 concerns. It saw them miss out on the opportunity to play for a spot in the final.

Biggest in:

The Capitals will go into the new WNBL season with a host of fresh faces. No time was wasted by Canberra, recruiting well during the off-season in an attempt to fill the spots left behind by key departures.

Whilst it remains to be seen how the side will be impacted by the exits of certain players, the addition of Rebecca Pizzey will no doubt boost their roster.

Pizzey will be looking to impress in the Canberra colours after signing with the side during the off-season. The 23-year-old brings with her a wealth of WNBL experience from her previous stints with the Dandenong Rangers, Southside Flyers and the Sydney Uni Flames.

She also played for the Eltham Wildcats in the recent season of the NBL1, during which time she averaged 14.15 points and 7.46 rebounds.

Along with Pizzey, another great pick up for the Capitals is Dekeiya Cohen.

Hailing from South Carolina, the 26-year-old has played at the elite level in the US, Spain, Turkey and Israel.

Her most recent stint with basketball club Hapoel Rishon LeZion saw her impress. Cohen averaged 13 points, 2.5 assists, 9.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

Biggest out:

The departure of Brittney Sykes will cause some concern for the team moving forward. A joint MVP recipient of last season, Sykes significantly contributed for the Capitals.

Sykes was an important asset for Canberra offensively, with the 28-year-old averaging 16.1 points per game. A major highlight from her was in her Round 3 game against the Bendigo Spirit, where she dropped a season-high of 33 points.

In her first year in Australia, Sykes also showed that she was a strong defensive player too. Her performance last season which consisted of 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.4 steals saw her awarded the WNBL’s 2021/22 Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the year award.

Her presence on the court will be certainly be missed by the Capitals when the start of the season rolls around.

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Player to watch:

Although the playing list is stacked with plenty of basketball talents, a name that stands out is Sherrie Calleia.

Before signing with the UC Capitals for the 2022/23 season, the point guard had a stint with the Sydney Flames. However, she battled injury during her time with the side.

Signing on to join Canberra in the off-season, the 23-year-old will be looking to make her mark in the upcoming season.

Calleia has also been involved in the NBL1 South for the past few years. Her time playing for the Mount Gambier has clearly impressed coach Kristen Veal, as she averaged 15.65 points per game, and had a field goal percentage of 42.38 per cent.

The point guard has caught attention for her offensive capabilities. With her a new season upon, Calleia remains one to watch in the competition.

Starting five

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

Full squad:

Alex Bunton, Rae Burrell, Sherrie Calleia, Dekeiya Cohen, Emilee Whittle-Harmon, Jade Melbourne, Rebecca Pizzey, Gemma Potter, Brittany Smart, Shaneice Swain, Elizabeth Tonks, Chloe Tugliach*, Abby Solway*

Ins: Rae Burrell (Los Angeles Sparks), Sherrie Calleia (Sydney Uni Flames), Dekeiya Cohen (Hapoel Rishon LeZion), Emilee Whittle-Harmon (Southside Flyers), Rebecca Pizzey (Sydney Uni Flames), Elizabeth Tonks (Canberra Nationals), Chloe Tugliach (Canberra Nationals)

Outs: Abby Cubillo (Adelaide Lightning), Alicia Froling (Bendigo Spirit), Kelsey Griffin (Bendigo Spirit), Mikaela Ruef (Townsville Fire), Brittney Sykes (Sopron Basket), Tahlia Tupaea, Kelly Wilson (Bendigo Spirit)

*development players

Fixture highlights:

In the highly anticipated season, the Capitals will get their 2022/23 campaign opened on the road in Melbourne, where they will take on Bendigo Spirit.

After having the semi-finals series come to an abrupt end in 2022, Canberra will be going for vengeance in Round 2 when it takes on the Perth Lynx.

Round 3 will see Canberra go head-to-head against reigning champions the Melbourne Boomers.

Meanwhile, the UC Capitals will be hoping to make a splash in their first game of 2023 in Round 9. They get the chance to host at the National Convention Centre for their clash with Bendigo.

To help close out the season, the UC Capitals will face off against the Lynx once more in Round 16.

What to expect:

It’ll be the beginning of a new dawn in season 2023, with Kristen Veal taking over the reins as head coach. Add in a shake-up to their playing list over in the off-season, and the UC Capitals’ campaign will certainly be an interesting one.

The new arrivals will help to bolster the chance for finals once again. With a mixture of talent from the WNBL, WNBA and international leagues, no doubt that eyes will be on this once again.

The UC Capitals will need to continue to build cohesion if they are to chase championship success for the 10th time. They will also need to adjust to key departures and the new coaching style that is bought by Veal.

The last word:

Whilst the playing list is stacked with impressive talent, questions remain about how the recent departures will impact the Capitals as they head into a new season.

In particular, it is yet to be seen how their offence will be given that Brittney Sykes and Kelsey Griffin were key contributors to the scoreboard in 2022.

A glance at their roster also has a stronger presence of youth in the squad, which may or may not be an obstacle for them in the competition.

After their previous season of COVID disruptions, the UC Capitals will be looking to start the new season with a high.

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