Two of the newest teams in the competition will be looking for immediate success in 2017 when Melbourne fields a men's and women's team for the first time.
Thomas Chambers, Ben Kelly, Jock Perry, Ben Carmody, Shaquille Maharaj, Rhys Carter, JP Wilkinson, Rob Jones, Nicholas Masunda.
Daryl Corletto, Bo Liu, Billy Hughes, Jimmy Todd, Paul Elderkin, Ari Stewart.
Xinkai Wang, Ben Dixon, Yiming Zhao.
Melbourne have an extended wait at the start of the season thanks to a bye in Round 1 but they face a tough schedule prior to Easter with a game in Dandenong before heading out on the Tasmanian road trip. They host another game at Oakleigh as they did last year and can set up camp at MSAC in the final rounds of the regular season with six of their last nine games at home.
Melbourne have continued their relationship with China, signing two new players to join Bo Liu who will be keen to become a more dominant player in the front court after his debut season in 2016. Daryl Corletto has also returned but is expected to miss games early in the season while the most experienced player on the roster, Jimmy Todd, will play an important role again this year. Ari Stewart came on strong in the second half of the season and finished as the Tigers’ best scorer in 2016.
While it was expected to be a tough season last year as they made their return to the competition, the Tigers could be in for another difficult campaign with little SEABL experience in the side. Coach Andrew Gaze, alongside assistant coaches Mark Gaze and Mark Bradtke will aim to continue to develop their overseas talent while growing the on-court roles of the likes of youngsters such as Billy Hughes.
Watch out for:
Yiming Zhao. Just turning 16, Zhao is a 218cm (7’2”) centre who will tower over a majority of the league. Obviously a raw talent, this season will be a major stepping stone in his burgeoning career after participating in the All-Asia camp which brought together some of the most exciting young talent from the continent in 2016.
Melbourne will firstly be aiming to improve on their three-win mark from last year and while only three teams will miss out on the playoffs in the South, the Tigers look like they will struggle to keep up with the top four. Stewart will be a presence to deal with in the paint and could combine with a couple of international surprises but putting a competitive total on the scoreboard each week will be a tough ask for Melbourne.
Bottom Three, South Conference
Roster: Louella Tomlinson, Bianca Babic, Ellen Kett, Courtney Gaze, Jess Harley, Monique Conti, Tayla Roberts, Peri Kalka, Alex Ciabattoni.
Melbourne’s season can almost be divided into road games for the first half of the year before their back end is full of home clashes. They host Geelong in their first game and then do not return to MSAC until Round 7, over a month later. With six of their final eight matches at home, it could provide a handy lead-in to the playoffs so do not count them out at the midway point of the season.
The Tigers have pulled together what looks like a capable roster ahead of their first season with the forward combination of Tayla Roberts and Louella Tomlinson sure to cause headaches for oppositions. Tomlinson is returning from a season in Spain while Roberts impressed for Adelaide in the WNBL, playing alongside Laura Hodges. Monique Conti is another WNBL player, having been named Rookie of the Year for 2016/17 and Courtney Gaze is the daughter of Andrew who previously played for Fresno State in the USA.
There is precedence that it can be difficult for a new team in their first year of the competition which could hurt Melbourne early, especially with such a heavy road schedule to start 2017. With teams such as Dandenong and Launceston in their Conference, they could also be subjected to a trial by fire of sorts a few times this season.
Watch out for:
Alex Ciabattoni. Playing alongside this year’s Rookie of the Year in Conti, Ciabattoni was the WNBL’s 2015/16 Rookie of the Year and after two seasons in the premiere league in the country, she will be ready to be one of the Tigers’ main offensive weapons. Averaging six points and two assists for the season, Ciabattoni will be carrying momentum into the SEABL campaign after recording 13 points and 3.7 assists across her last three games.
With an array of potential leading scorers and a solid front court combination in Tayla Roberts and Louella Tomlinson who will also provide the rim protection and paint defence, Melbourne have the chance to buck the trend of incoming teams and reach the post-season in their first year. They may not match it with the best in the South but games against the likes of Ballarat and Hobart will determine whether they are a 2017 finalist.
Top Four, South Conference