Anneli Maley in her debut for the Perth Lynx. (Photo: WNBL/Twitter)

The first edition of The Inner Sanctum’s WNBL Power Rankings for season 2023/24 have dropped. With the opening season showing some strong performances, while other teams will be looking to improve. 

These WNBL Power Rankings are based on the squads’ current form and short-term expectations. They aren’t a prediction of where teams will finish the season on the ladder, but rather an expectation on how they will perform in their upcoming games with consideration given to injuries and form.

Here are the Power Rankings for Round 1:

1. Perth Lynx

Record: 1-0

It was a new look Perth Lynx side this season with players departing as well as a mix of superstars and up-and-comers joining the ranks.

The match on Friday night saw the unveiling of prized recruits Anneli Maley and Aari McDonald as well as young guns Miela Goodchild and Steph Gorman.

The Lynx started their season with a bang, winning against the Sydney Flames by 14 points in Perth. During the game they were able to get to the basket with ease, making the hard stuff look so easy, able to transition.

Captain Maley was named player of the match after an impressive performance recording 15 points, 21 rebounds and four assists, while McDonald had a stunning debut in red scoring 18 points, six assists, and two rebounds.

Game this week: Adelaide Lightning

2. Melbourne Boomers

Record: 2-0

The Melbourne Boomers were one of two teams to feature in two games across the opening round, kicking off proceedings against Adelaide Lightning before playing in the first instalment of the Michele Timms Cup against the Flyers.

The Boomers got off to a rocky start in both games but they were able to come through with two wins with star import Jordin Canada making her mark in her first season of WNBL. Penina Davidson was strong in the opening match, really helping her side get back into the contest, finishing the match with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.

The Boomers were without some key talent with Aimie Rocci out with concussion, Kristy Wallace out with a knee injury and will be out until December, and Monique Conti who had AFLW commitments.

In good news for the Boomers, Conti should be raring to go with Richmond finishing their AFLW season on Sunday.

Game this week: Sydney Flames 

3. Townsville Fire 

Record: 1-0 

Although the Fire were dealt a huge blow on the eve of their season with reigning Rachel Sporn Medalist Tianna Hawkins being ruled out of the season due to injury. The Fire were able to get their title defence underway with a win over the Bendigo Spirit.

It was a slow start to the game but once the Fire was able to find their feet and click into gear during the second quarter, they started to get on top of the Spirit through the likes of Zitina Aokuso and newly minted captain Sami Whitcomb.

Aokuso was everywhere scoring 20 points and started that surge in the first quarter that helped Townsville get back into the contest. Whitcomb put her best foot forward in her Fire debut having 18 points, four assists, and four rebounds. 

Game this week: Southside Flyers

4.  Adelaide Lightning

Record: 1-1

The Lightning was the second team to feature in two matches across the opening round, taking on the Melbourne Boomers and the UC Captials, with a mixed bag of results.

While it was disappointing for the Lightning not to finish off a strong first-half performance against the Boomers, there were plenty of positives to take out of it.

Their young stars Isabel Borlase and Isabelle Bourne had outstanding performances, not just in the game against the Boomers but against the Capitals as well. The pair showed that if they remain in Lightning colours, they will be quite a dominant partnership, not just this season but for years to come.

Then adding imports Jocelyn Willoughby and Brianna Turner and veteran Lauren Mansfield, the Lightning have a good side but it’ll be just about creating consistent performances across the season and the reward will come for Nat Hurst and her team.

Game this week: Perth Lynx 

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5. Southside Flyers

Record: 0-1

When you’ve got your opening round match against the arch-rivals, you always want to win especially when several players crossed over during the off-season. Although the Flyers couldn’t get the job done over the Melbourne Boomers going down by seven points in what was a game of momentum swings.

WNBL fans were in for a treat with Lauren Jackson taking to the court for the first time since her Achilles injury last season on top of what was a fiery contest. Captaincy is suiting Bec Cole, who did everything she could to get the result for her side, finishing with 25 points, two assists, and three rebounds.

Then young gun Nyadiew Puouch picked up where she left off last season and was strong for the Flyers defensively, having seven rebounds, all of which were defensive to go with two steals and three blocks.

Games this week: UC Capitals, Townsville Fire

6. UC Capitals

Much like the Lightning, although the Capitals would be disappointed with the result there are plenty of positives to take out of the narrow defeat against Adelaide.

For one, the fightback from the side was quite impressive after being down by 11 points going into three-quarter time, the ability to get back into the match and narrowly miss out on the win would be something that Capitals fans would be happy with, considering they were able to limit their opponents to just 12 points in that final quarter to their 20.

Alex Sharp was instrumental in the side’s fight back finishing the match with 21 points and 19 rebounds, her strong performance earned her player of the match. While in her debut game, Alex Fowler was strong especially in that final quarter, finishing the game with 19 points and six rebounds. 

Game this week: Southside Flyers

7. Bendigo Spirit

Record: 0-1

The Spirit got off to the perfect start against the reigning champions in Townsville Fire, recording nine points on the board before the Fire could score one but unfortunately, they weren’t able to keep up with last season’s champions.

Among the positives, import Mehryn Kraker was strong in her first outing, using her height and strength to her advantage, especially in the key. Kraker finished the game scoring 16 points while having four assists and four rebounds. 

Captain Kelsey Griffin was among those not suiting up for the Spirit with a hamstring injury seeing her sidelined, so her addition back into the team in the coming weeks will give the side a real spark.

Game This Week: Sydney Flames 

8. Sydney Flames 

Record- 0-1 

This season has brought high expectations for the Flames with a stunning recruiting haul putting them in the hunt after a disappointing season last year. The Flames picked up Cayla George, Lauren Nicholson and Opals skipper Tess Madgen although the latter didn’t feature being ruled out with knee soreness

 While the signs were there they could build something pretty special as the season progresses. Although they seemed a little bit disjointed which was expected with an almost new look roster and new coach in Guy Molloy. 

 Import Didi Richards showed plenty of promise in what was her first game of basketball after recovering from injury. Getting the Flames on the board early, while she didn’t record high stats there are plenty of things to like about the import. 

Nicholson was arguably the best for the Flames recording 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and one steal and attempting a Flames surge in the final quarter. 

Games this week: Bendigo Spirit, Melbourne Boomers 

Round Two of the WNBL Season kicks off on Wednesday night when the UC Capitals take on the Southside Flyers.

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