WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Melbourne Boomers

The Melbourne Boomers will be looking to make it to the grand final after coming close in recent seasons. (Photo: WNBL/Twitter)

For the last couple of seasons, the Melbourne Boomers have been around the mark. They will be hoping WNBL22 is the year they can put it all together and capture their second ever championship.

With a mixture of youth and experience, the Boomers will hope the additions to their roster can help elevate them and make it to their first grand final appearance since the 2017-2018 season.

They gain fresh faces in locals Lou Brown and Lily Scanlon while adding WNBA star and USA international Tiffany Mitchell to an already star-studded roster containing Australian Opals Ezi Magbegor, Cayla George and Tess Madgen.

Last season:

Last season: Fourth (nine wins, four losses)

Last season some teams found it difficult in the far-north Queensland bubble. However, the Melbourne Boomers had no issues, as they stormed out of the gate early, winning their first three games of the season, smashing the Sydney Uni Flames and cross-town rivals the Southside Flyers by 15 points and 17 points respectively.

They would closely get over the line against the Perth Lynx, defeating them by six points before losing their first game to the UC Capitals.

Melbourne concluded the season finishing fourth with nine wins and four losses, their fourth straight year making the semi-finals.

In the semi-finals, the Boomers matched up with the Capitals. They ended up winning by 10 points, thanks to performances from Ezi Magbegor (20 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals), and Madeleine Garrick (15 points, four assists and four rebounds).

Melbourne was unable to replicate its performance in the preliminary final, going down to the Townsville Fire by three points, once again missing out on the grand final.

Biggest in:

The Melbourne Boomers have secured the signature of WNBA star Tiffany Mitchell for the upcoming season.

Mitchell is coming off her sixth season with the Indiana Fever, where she made a career-high 25 starts. In 28 games, Mitchell averaged 12 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.

The 27-year-old recorded her best season in the WNBA last year, achieving career highs in points (12.7), rebounds (3.4), assists (2.6) and minutes played (26.4).

Mitchell is the most decorated women’s basketball player of the University of South Carolina program, having made the most starts (135) and played the most games (139).

She was taken with the ninth pick in the 2016 WNBA draft by Indiana Fever and made an immediate impact in her first season, scoring a game-high 18 points in her rookie debut. She also set a franchise record with 42 consecutive made free throws, a record she broke the following year.

Mitchell has received high praise from her former coaches, Fever coach Stephanie White calling her a “two-way player”. Her college head coach and mentor, Dawn Staley, called her “Superwoman”.

Mitchell shouldn’t have a problem adjusting to the WNBL, joining Fever teammate Lindsay Allen, who will also be returning after missing last season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The return of Allen will bring another offensive weapon for the Boomers to put alongside Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor.

The last time Allen was in the WNBL was the 2019/20 season, where she averaged 15.1 points, 4.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. After the departure of Maddie Garrick, the Boomers will happily welcome back Allen to the roster.

Biggest out:

The Melbourne Boomers will be without Madeleine Garrick this season after the shooting guard found a new home for WNBL22, joining the Bendigo Spirit.

Garrick was an important piece for Melbourne in her six-year tenure at the club. She was a key piece in the Boomers offence, showing in the hub last season that she can be a lockdown defender when required.

Being co-captain of the Boomers for the past two seasons, Garrick leaving will create more opportunities for others to stand up and take on more leadership responsibilities.

Player to watch:

Ezi Magbegor is rolling into WNBL22 coming off an Olympic campaign where she was one of the Opals’ best performers in Toyko, averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and one steal.

After the Olympics, Magbegor went back to play with WNBA team the Seattle Storm, and continued to perform off the bench. In 30 games, Magbegor averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 15 minutes but her averages don’t reflect the impact she had on the court.

On both sides of the league’s Olympic break, Magbegor recorded career-high performances. The game before the break, Magbegor finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. The first game back she would eclipse that and record 21 points and nine rebounds.

Magbegor already showed she was a handful to contain in the WNBL hub last season, averaging 15.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game and looks to be another dangerous and key piece for the Boomers again in WNBL22.

Starting five:

PG: Lindsay Allen

SG: Tess Madgen

SF: Tiffany Mitchell

PF: Cayla George

C: Ezi Magbegor

More WNBL Season Previews

WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Sydney Uni Flames

WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Adelaide Lightning

WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Perth Lynx

Full squad:

Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor, Izzy Wright, Lily Scanlon, Lindsay Allen, Lou Brown, Penina Davidson, Rachel Brewster, Tess Heal (development player), Tess Madgen, Tiffany Mitchell, Sophie Burrows (development player), Charlise Dunn (development player)

Fixture highlights:

The Melbourne Boomers are set to start their WNBL season away from home, taking on the Bendigo Spirit at Bendigo Stadium in Round 2.

Melbourne then faces cross-town rivals the Southside Flyers in back to back clashes, first matching up against the Flyers at home in front of their home fans at the State Basketball Centre in their second game of Round 2 before facing the Flyers away in Round 3.

The Boomers won’t have to leave Victoria until December 22, when they have to travel north to face the Sydney Uni Flames at Brydens Stadium.

Melbourne will get to avenge their preliminary finals loss against the Townsville Fire on January 30, as the Fire face the Boomers in front of Melbourne’s home ground.

What to expect:

Possessing a team where a large majority of players are new, and with many young talented players in the squad, the first thing on head coach Guy Molloy’s mind will be to familiarise everyone with each other’s playing styles and build some chemistry as they set their eyes on another top-four finish.

The pure star power in the mixture of WNBA and Opals level talent will keep them in good stead, and should see them through to finals again.

Final word:

The Melbourne Boomers will be looking to finish in the top four again, looking to break their semi-final hoodoo and make the grand final to win their second-ever championship.

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