Past the halfway point of the season, take a look at the front runners for the 2018 SEABL Most Valuable Player award and a couple of roughies that are also in the hunt.
Lauren Nicholson- Launceston Tornadoes
The second leading scorer in the competition with 24.5 points per game, Nicholson has burst onto the Australian basketball scene through her past few SEABL and WNBL campaigns. She has increased her point production from 17.2 points last year, is shooting 54% from the field and after hitting 30 three-pointers in 2017, Nicholson has already drained 18 three’s at 49% (third best in the league). She helped keep Launceston afloat early in the season, contributing all over the floor with 8.9 rebounds (while also sitting third for offensive boards overall) and 2.3 assists per game, earning the Round 2 Player of the Week award.
However, her numbers have not dropped off since Lauren Mansfield arrived and Nicholson is still the main offensive weapon for a team that will make noise in the post-season after winning six of their last seven games. She has scored 20+ on nine occasions with a lowest total of 15 points, has tallied four double-doubles and is also Launceston’s steals leader with a total of 21.
Tayla Roberts- Dandenong Rangers
A dominant force in the paint throughout her SEABL career, Roberts looks to be on track to average a double-double for the first time. She is only of only five players achieving that mark at the moment with 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and she is shooting at 54% from the field. Through her 150-game career prior to this season, Roberts had only hit 15 three-pointers but she has added another string to her bow this year with nine three’s, which have all come in the past five games, at 56%.
In Round 3, she was unlucky to not claim Player of the Week as she recorded 21 points and 21 rebounds against Launceston before backing up the following day against Diamond Valley with 19 points and 24 boards. At the defensive end of the floor, Roberts sits third in the league for blocks with a total of 21 in 12 games and the Rangers allow just 42% shooting inside the arc compared to the league average of 44.1%. Dandenong are a perennial Championship contender and have gone about their business quietly this season but still sit inside the top four at the mid-way point with an 8-4 record including a 4-1 home record.
Marena Whittle- Nunawading Spectres
Returning this season from a knee injury that kept her out of the most recent WNBL campaign, Whittle has had no troubles finding her feet on court and she proved it by earning the April Player of the Month award. Consistency has been her best asset, averaging 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, two assists and 1.6 steals per game while collecting five double-doubles and scoring 20+ in five games.
She is a threat from anywhere on the floor, hitting 44% from the field, 43% from deep and 76% from the free-throw line while also knocking down the most free-throws of any Spectres player. Nunawading sit comfortably in second spot and have a 5-1 record on the road while they have already claimed wins over Launceston, Kilsyth, Geelong and Melbourne with an average winning margin of 16 points.
Emilee Harmon- Albury/Wodonga Bandits
The Bandits began 2018 with one of their best ever starts, winning their first two games, but since then, they have won just one of their past ten. Harmon has done all she can to get Albury/Wodonga over the line though, averaging 24.3 points (third in the league), 9.1 rebounds (sixth) and 2.7 assists (second for the club) while tallying 11 steals (second for the club).
Impressing through the first four rounds, Harmon has taken her game to another level since then, averaging 30 points and 11.5 rebounds in Round 5, recording 37 points and 13 boards against Launceston in Round 6 and collecting 28 points and nine boards against Sandringham in their most recent outing.
Kelly Wilson- Bendigo Braves
Coming off a WNBL Championship with Townsville, Wilson is full of confidence and her performances on court are reflecting that. She has been completely dominant in leading the Braves to a 10-0 record at the midway point of the season and Wilson has also claimed back-to-back Player of the Week awards in Round 7 and 8 as well as earning the May Player of the Month.
In recent weeks, she has increased her scoring to now sit second for Bendigo with 15.3 points per game but it has been her ability to bring her team mates into the contest that has helped the Braves be so successful. She leads the competition with 10.8 assists per game, 5.7 more than any other player and, incredibly, her overall assists tally means she would still sit first even if she had not played her first six games. Also placed equal-second in the competition for steals with 26, Wilson’s form has the Braves currently installed as Championship favourites.
Lauren Scherf- Diamond Valley Eagles
Making a move to Diamond Valley this season, Scherf has lost none of her touch with career-highs in points (21 per game), rebounds (14.5), assists (2.6) and is also shooting a career-best 89% from the free-throw line. She also sits equal-third within the Eagles for steals and is placed fifth in the competition for total blocks with 17. In Round 5, Scherf earned Player of the Week after dismantling the Sabres with 31 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three rejections.
Nadeen Payne- Bendigo Braves
While Wilson has taken most of the plaudits in recent weeks, Payne has been outstanding for the Braves this season as well and has been a major part of their unbeaten run. Taking more of the responsibility in Bendigo’s WNBL team last season when Kelsey Griffin went down, Payne has now transformed that new-found confidence into SEABL where she sits third overall for points per game (23.1) and first for free-throws made with 56. She earned the Round 1 Player of the Week award when she tallied 37 points and 12 rebounds against Diamond Valley but the efforts of Wilson may be taking votes off Payne.
Rebecca Cole- Melbourne Tigers
Cole has missed some games due to 3×3 commitments with the national team (where she is becoming one of Australia’s best) but as the league’s leading scorer in a team that currently sits seventh on the ladder, she should be getting her fair share of votes. In addition to 25.4 points per game (which is five points more than her next best production in a season), Cole also sits fourth for assists in the league with five per game. She has scored at least 20 points in every contest and if she can hit the court more consistently in the back half of the year for the Tigers, she will increase her MVP chances as well as Melbourne’s finals hopes.
Rachel Jarry- Sandringham Sabres
Making a triumphant return to the court after a series of concussion injuries during the 2017/18 WNBL campaign, Jarry looks as good as ever and has led Sandringham to fifth place on the ladder. They are aiming to make the playoffs for the first time in five years and Jarry will be key to those hopes with her ability to guard the perimeter as well as crash the boards while being the club’s most prolific scorer. She is averaging 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists and has recorded five double-doubles while in Round 4 on the Tasmanian road trip, Jarry helped the Sabres sweep the weekend with an average of 25 points, ten boards and 2.5 assists to earn Player of the Week.
Keely Froling- Canberra Caps Academy
The Caps Academy have never made the playoffs but on the back of their best ever start to a season, they have a chance in 2018 with a current 5-5 record. Froling will need to step up now that they have lost Kate Gaze to an ACL injury but if she can lead them into the playoffs, expect the rising star to poll well. The forward is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds and notched a triple-double in Round 3 when she had 21 points, 14 boards and ten assists but 3×3 commitments, in the same vein as Cole, will hurt her MVP aspirations.