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2018 SEASON PREVIEW: DANDENONG RANGERS
Friday, March 23, 2018

MEN

Departing:
Jack Perry, Jorden Page, Riley Wood, Nodia Odigie, Mitch Barry, Luke Hughes, Puoch Puoc, Brennan McElroy, Chauncey Orr.

Returning:
Mitchell Riggs, Dieuson Biyendolo, Josh Oswald, Marley Biyendoolo, Lucas Barker, Tyler Robertson, Tim Lang, Liam Gibcus, Keli Leaupepe.

Newcomers:
Rhys Vague, Anthony Drmic, Declan Soukup, Oliver Hayes Brown.

Fixture:
Dandenong will travel to Ballarat for their opening clash before playing at home for the next two games. The Rangers will play the next three out of four games away in an important stretch before they will face Mt. Gambier in a championship rematch in Round 9.

Overall:
A strength of Dandenong last season was their depth and while they fell short of their ultimate goal, losing in the Grand Final to Mt. Gambier, they had nine players score in that game and six hit double-figures. They have taken a hit with the loss of guard Chauncey Orr and forward Brennan McElroy, the Rangers have found a couple of strong replacements for their front court in NBL players Rhys Vague and Anthony Drmic.

Vague is a development player with the Wildcats who was also named in the Under-19 squad for Australia in 2015 while Drmic is currently competing in the NBL Grand Final for the Adelaide 36ers and has averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 rebounds this season. Keli Leaupepe is another strong addition who is coming off an incredible 2017 that saw him dominate at the Australian School Championships as well as at the FIBA Under-17 Oceania Championships for Australia. With Tim Lang and Liam Gibcus returning (two 206cm centres), Dandenong will be stacked in the paint.

An entirely Australian line-up, the Rangers will look to Lucas Barker to be their on-court leader once again as they have a relatively young guard list as well. Tyler Robertson is a local who also shone at the Under-17 Oceania’s alongside Leaupepe while Declan Soukup showed strong sings in the playoffs for the Rangers that he has a cool head on his shoulders. Barker may still have to do a lot of the heavy lifting though and it will be the help that he receives that could make the difference for Dandenong this year.

WOMEN

Departing:
Aimie Clydesdale, Lauren Scherf, Bree Whatman, Clare Papavs, Anneli Maley, Rachel Antoniadou, Sophie Tarabolsi.

Returning:
Rosie Fadjlevic, Maddison Puli, Amelia Todhunter.

Newcomers:
Tess Madgen, Tessa Lavey, Kiera Rowe, Rebecca Pizzey, Tayla Roberts, Isobel Anstey, Leia Hanifan, Taylah Giliam, Emily Sewell.
Fixture:
Like the men, the Dandenong Rangers women will play three games away through the end of April and into May before having a week off in Round 6. A busy end to the regular season sees them play three games in the space of a week just prior to the playoffs.

Overall:
Finalists in each of the past nine years which includes five Championships, Dandenong have a reputation to maintain as the greatest team ever to grace the SEABL women’s competition. Five players from Dandenong’s WNBL team will feature with Amelia Todhunter and Opal Tessa Lavey controlling the pace as a guard combination while Tayla Roberts (6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds per game in the WNBL) provides an imposing presence under the rim.

Rebecca Pizzey is a developing star with great length while Kiera Rowe could be set for a breakout season after finishing in the WNBL’s top three voting for Rookie of the Year. Tess Madgen is another WNBL-calibre player who will make her return to the court in 2018 after tearing her ACL last March while playing in Poland. Her form could be the deciding factor in the Rangers’ campaign and off the floor she will offer assistance to the younger players but it will likely take her a couple of weeks to find a rhythm back on court.

It could also take the team a couple of rounds to come together as they have lost five of their top six scorers from 2017 including stalwarts Lauren Scherf and Amelia Todhunter. Clara Papavs’ absence is another blow with the veteran a key part of Dandenong’s recent success. It will be up to coach John White to pull the new brigade together and sustain the Rangers’ amazing run.