06/03/2024

Didi Richards in action for Sydney Flames against the Townsville Fire. (Photo: Kris Saad/ Supplied)

The ninth edition of The Inner Sanctum’s WNBL Power Rankings for season 2023/24 has dropped, presented by The Inner Sanctum contributors Callum Logie and Elly McNerney.

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.

You can view last week’s Power Rankings here

Here are The Inner Sanctum’s WNBL Power Rankings ahead of Round 10 of the 2023/24 season.

1. Townsville Fire

Record: 9-3, Previous Ranking: 2nd 

While it was a mixed week for the Fire, going 1-1 in their double-fixture round, they managed to reclaim the helm of our power rankings, moving to the strongest record in the league. 

Their first fixture was the overtime loss to the Sydney Flames. The three-point loss was thanks to an incredible Didi Richards performance which overshadowed the game-high Sami Whitcomb effort of 26 points. Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods added 16 and 15 points respectively but the Fire weren’t able to hold back the Flames in overtime.

The second fixture was back to what is fast becoming routine for the Fire as they posted an impressive New Year’s Eve win over the Perth Lynx. Whitcomb’s scoring continued to flourish as she added another 26 points against Perth along with 21 points from Courtney Woods who is starting to become a star in the Townsville team.

Another doubleheader will see the Lynx look for revenge and a fixture against the Spirit where the Fire will be hoping to be the first team to hit double digits in the wins column.

Games this week: Perth Lynx, Bendigo Spirit 

2. Perth Lynx 

Record: 8-4,  Previous Ranking: 1st

The Lynx dropped slightly this week as their loss to the Fire outweighed their solid win against the Capitals. Despite the Fire result, the Lynx remain a dangerous and hungry team, proving why they’re almost always near the top of the WNBL standings.

The Capitals fixture was an offensive showcase, with a 98-90 win breaking the mini win-streak the Capitals had been building.

Amy Atwell posted a sensational 36 points in just 33 minutes of play, showing how explosive she can be when she gets her perimeter shots going consistently. Anneli Maley and Emily Potter also performed admirably in the win, with Maley continuing to prove she’s one of the best rebounders in the WNBL with 13 from the small forward spot.

Maley was again a strong positive in the loss to Townsville, posting an 18-point and 13-rebound double-double. Perth has shown that if its players outside of Atwell and Maley can produce, it can outplay any team on any given night.

It’s merely a matter of hitting those heights consistently.

Games this week: Townsville Fire, Adelaide Lightning 

3.  Southside Flyers

Record: 7-4, Previous Ranking: 4th

The Southside Flyers have moved up a spot in this week’s rankings after a strong win on the road against the Adelaide Lightning. The Flyers were able to take home a strong 25-point lead as they looked to finish 2023 off with a bang.

The charge was led by young gun Nyadiew Puoch who was just about unstoppable. The young gun had 20 points to go with eight rebounds and two assists. While Mercedes Russell wasn’t too far behind her with 15 points and seven rebounds.

The Flyers will be looking to back up their performance this week as they look to get one back on cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers. 

Games this week: Melbourne Boomers, UC Capitals

4. Sydney Flames 

Record- 7-5, Previous Ranking: 5th

The Flames are well and truly back in finals contention with an extremely impressive victory over the Fire.

As mentioned earlier, Didi Richards starred in what was perhaps Sydney’s most important win of the season. The 24-year-old American had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists to lead the Flames in the overtime win.

Alongside this breakout performance, Richards was supplemented by the usual suspects of Cayla George and Lauren Nicholson, both posting double-doubles in the win. George finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Nicholson had 15 points and 10 assists to complement the scoring of Richards and Emma Clarke who had 17 as well.

When all the pieces fall into place for Sydney, it makes a very potent package and one that will prove difficult for Adelaide and Melbourne to overcome in round 10.

Games This Week: Adelaide Lightning, Melbourne Boomers

Didi Richards taking a perimeter jump shot against the Townsville Fire (Photo: Kris Saad / Supplied)

5. Melbourne Boomers 

Record: 7-5, Previous Ranking: 3rd

The Melbourne Boomers were dealt a loss after going down to the Bendigo Spirit at the Boom Box on Saturday night. With the rise of the Sydney Flames this week, the Melbourne Boomers dropped out of the top four in the power rankings for the first time this season.

The match was dubbed the battle of the Froling twins with both Keely and Alicia stepping up to the plate and leading their respective sides. Keely was best on court from a Boomers perspective, scoring 16 points, one assist and 12 rebounds.

A shutdown role on Jordin Canada in the second half saw that free-flowing play dry up a bit for the Boomers, with missed opportunities hurting the home team, especially in those final moments of the game.

Although the Boomers found it tough to stop the likes of Alicia Froling under the bucket in defence, with Alicia just too strong.

The Boomers will be looking to bounce back this week in the second instalment of the Michele Timms Cup against the Flyers as the team looks to win back the trophy having won the opening game of the series.

Games this week: Southside Flyers, Sydney Flames

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6.  Bendigo Spirit

Record: 4-7, Previous Ranking: 6th

It was a strong win from the Bendigo Spirit over the Melbourne Boomers on Saturday night, with the visitors taking home the win after a three-point win in Parkville.

The Spirit was led by Alicia Froling who came off the bench and dominated the game, with her teammates often finding her underneath the basket and using her strength she was able to bank the points or draw a foul. Froling finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds (six offensive and six defensive rebounds), and an assist.

While her stats don’t show it, Abbey Wehrung had a strong game defensively playing the shutdown role on Boomers star Jordin Canada. Which limited the Boomers’ run of play in the second half, after Canada was strong in the opening half.

Games This Week: Townsville Fire

7. UC Capitals 

Record: 2-9, Previous Ranking: 7th

Unfortunately for Canberra, the momentum it had been building has been slightly knocked back thanks to its valiant defeat to Perth.

The Capitals were very competitive in the fixture with the Lynx as Jade Melbourne once again filled the stat sheet. The Opals guard posted 25 points along with a game-high of eight assists and six rebounds. Melbourne’s usual co-star Alex Sharp once again had a solid game up front with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a double-double performance of their own. 

While they were ultimately overwhelmed by the Lynx offence, the Capitals showed their talent when moving the ball, doing well to make Melbourne the focal point of the offence.

With an away fixture against the Flyers coming their way next week, they’ll be hoping to solidify their defence and start moving in the right direction once again.

Games this week: Southside Flyers

8. Adelaide Lightning 

Record: 3-10, Previous Ranking: 8th

It was another disappointing result for the Lightning, coming away with their 10th loss for the season after a 25-point loss to the Southside Flyers at home, which sees them remain at the bottom of the power rankings this week.

Jocelyn Willoughby was the standout for the Lightning, scoring 25 points to go with her two assists and five rebounds. Willoughby was only one of two Lightning players to reach double figures individually with Isabelle Bourne converting 12 points for the home side.

The Lightning will be looking to turn things around when they face the Sydney Flames at home on Friday and the Perth Lynx over in the west on Sunday afternoon.

Games this week: Sydney, Perth Lynx

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