2022 NBL1 South Conference Women’s Award winners

At the 2022 NBL1 South Conference Awards held at the State Basketball Centre on Friday night 2 September Knox Raiders forward Alicia Froling was named the women’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) and was joined in the All Star 5 by twin sister Keely who won two statistical awards for her performances with Launceston Tornadoes – leading scorer and leading rebounder.

Joining the Froling sisters in the All Star 5 were Nunawading forward Alice Kunek and one player from each of the Grand Final teams, Bendigo Braves guard Tess Madgen and Ringwood Hawks guard/forward Marena Whittle.

Ringwood Hawks Latvian import centre Digna Strautmane won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Ballarat Miners guard Jade Melbourne was named the Youth Player of the Year. Mount Gambier Pioneers head coach Matt Sutton was named the Coach of the Year. Bendigo Braves guard Kelly Wilson won the Golden Hands statistical award. Bianca Vernon was named the Women’s Conference referee of the year.

After trailing at half-time of the Grand Final at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday night 3 September Ringwood outscored Bendigo 31-15 in the third quarter to set up an 89-73 to win the South Conference women’s championship. Whittle scored 33 points and took 19 rebounds to set game highs in both categories and was named the Grand Final Most Valuable Player.

More detail on each of the 2022 NBL1 South Conference Women’s Award winners is provided below.

Alicia Froling – League MVP and All Star 5

On signing with the Knox Raiders for the 2022 NBL1 South season forward Alicia Froling told The NBL1 Show during the 10 May 2022 episode “I signed with Knox really early, in December, Kennedy (Kereama) our coach is an assistant with Caps and he was like ‘I want you’ and I was like absolutely, Knox were a great team last year and straight away I was like I want to go.” Whilst Froling was playing for the University of Canberra Capitals during the 2021/22 WNBL season Kereama was an assistant coach but also the Capitals caretaker head coach for four games.

During the 2022 NBL1 South women’s season Alicia Froling exceeded everyone’s expectations including her own to win the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award playing for the Knox Raiders. Less than a fortnight before the 2022 NBL1 South season commenced Alicia decided to change from shooting right-handed to shooting left-handed. During half-time of Kayo Sports coverage of the NBL1 Women’s South Grand Final on 3 September Alicia commented on making this major change, saying “I have actually had two major wrist surgeries (on my right wrist). After WNBL season I came here (to Knox Raiders) and 10 days before the first game I was like I can’t keep doing this, I am beating myself up and I know I have done everything In can to get my wrist right, it is obviously just something I am going to have to deal with. So my only option was to go to my left and it has paid off.”

In the Knox Raiders fourth game of the 2022 NBL1 South season on the road against Diamond Valley Eagles at Community Bank Stadium on 7 May Alicia Froling scored 30 points shooting at 78.6% from the field which included making one of two three-pointers. In the 84-50 victory Froling took nine rebounds and made 10 of 12 free-throws.

During the May 10 episode of The NBL1 Show Alicia spoke about her early seasonform and the adjustment to shoot left handed, commenting “It has been three weeks and it feels amazing, like beyond amazing. I am shooting really well from the free-throw line, I hit a three in the last game, I didn’t expect to be shooting three’s, I was going to give it six months until I did that. It has come along really well and I have just got a lot of confidence at the moment.”

From May 28 until the end of the season Froling scored at least 15 points in her last 16 games of the season and was very effective in the paint on both offense and defense. In a Knox 70-41 victory against Diamond Valley Eagles at the State Basketball Centre on 18 June Froling was dominant, scoring a game-high 31 points, shot the ball at 60% from the field, took a game-high nine rebounds and had three assists.  

Knox’s final four games of the season included road games against two teams above them on the ladder, Mt Gambier Pioneers and Ringwood Hawks. Froling was phenomenal over these four games to score at least 20 points and take at least 15 rebounds in each game. Alicia set game-highs for scoring and rebounding in all four games and played a pivotal role in winning all four games. Against Mt Gambier at The Ice House on 27 points and 18 rebounds    In Knox Raiders penultimate game of the regular season Froling scored 21 points and took 15 rebounds in a 66-64 victory against the Hawks at The Rings on 13 August.

Knox Raiders finished sixth at the end of the 2022 NBL1 South Regular season with a record of 15 wins and seven losses. Knox limited their opponents to an average of 60.5 points per game, ranked first in the NBL1 South women’s conference. In the Raiders 68-81 elimination final loss to Waverley Falcons at the State Basketball Centre on 20 August Froling scored a team-high 20 points and took nine rebounds.

During the 2022 NBL1 South season Froling played all 23 games for Knox Raiders, averaging 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game to lead Knox in both categories and rank eighth in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounding. Froling was one of only two Knox Raiders to averaged over 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game along with Klara Wischer (14.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game).  

At the 2022 NBL1 South Awards held at the State Basketball Centre on Friday 2 September Alicia Froling won two awards, being named the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) and was selected in the All Star Five. It was a massive weekend for the Froling family with Alicia’s twin sister Keely joining her in the women’s All Star Five, brother Harry was selected in the men’s All Star Five and was a member of the Hobart Chargers team that won the men’s South conference Grand Final on Saturday. Alicia is one of four Froling siblings, youngest brother Sam also played in the NBL1 during 2022, representing the Townsville Heat in NBL1 North.

During half-time of Kayo Sports coverage of the NBL1 Women’s South Grand Final on 3 September Alicia commented on being named NBL1 South MVP “It’s been awesome, I think the South has probably been the best competition for the females in terms of the calibre of players that we have so it definitely is something that I am really proud of but I am also going in to the WNBL season with a heap of confidence. It was great to see Keely and Harry also get awards last night too, it is always nice.”

On 31 August the Bendigo Spirit announced that Froling had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Froling played for Bendigo during the 2020 WNBL hub season in Queensland. Alicia will continue to be coached by Kennedy Kereama who was appointed as Bendigo Spirit’s head coach in late May. Alicia is also joined at Bendigo by Kelsey Griffin after the front-court duo were teammates at the University of Canberra Capitals during the 2021/22 season.

After Froling had signed with Bendigo for the 2022/23 WNBL season Kereama told wnbl.basketball “Alicia is one heck of a competitor; she’s done a tremendous amount of work and she’s just an absolute champion when it comes to dedicating time to her craft to get better. She’s proven at NBL1 level that she can rebound, score, bring presence to the paint and is a very good athlete, she has great versatility and does a great job at using her length. I’ve got a lot of trust in her, I know she has the goods and can deliver, this will be a season where she will consistently get to perform.”1

Keely Froling – All Star 5, leading scorer and leading rebounder

In September 2021 forward Keely Froling re-signed with the Launceston Tornadoes for the 2022 NBL1 season, having represented the club during 2021 when the NBL1 season was only able to be partially completed as a result of restrictions in place due to COVID-19. During the 2021 NBL1 South season Keely set a new single-game NBL1 record by scoring 52 points for Launceston against Diamond Valley Eagles.

After Keely signed with Launceston for the 2022 NBL1 season Tornadoes Head Coach Sarah Veale told examiner.com.au “Keely has proven she is an absolute difference-maker, certainly a rare talent and impacts both ends of the court. Her leadership has played a critical role in building our culture and she epitomises the values that our club upholds.”2 Also returning from Launceston’s 2021 roster were forward Kelsey Griffin and guard Mariah Payne. Launceston were further strengthened mid-season when centre Marianna Tolo joined the club after completing her season in France with Basket Landes. Froling, Griffin and Tolo had been teammates at the University of Canberra Capitals for back-to-back WNBL Championships in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

In three of the Launceston Tornadoes first four games of the 2021/22 NBL1 South season Froling scored at least 33 points including a home game against Keilor Thunder at Elphin Stadium on 30 April when she scored 33 points, took 20 rebounds, made seven assists and had six steals to set game-highs in all four categories in the 93-60 victory. Keely’s 20 rebounds were comprised of nine offensive and 11 defensive, no other player took more than two offensive rebounds for the game.

In 14 out of 24 games Keely Froling scored at least 28 points including three consecutive games in late July/early August where she scored at least 35 points and took at least 15 rebounds in each game. In the first game of this sequence against Ballarat on the road at Selkirk Stadium on 24 July Froling scored 35 points and took 25 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories. Highlighting Froling’s dominance on the boards her 19 defensive rebounds was one more than the 18 defensive rebounds taken by the entire Ballarat Miners team combined.

Launceston Tornadoes finished eighth at the end of the 2022 NBL1 South regular season with 14 wins and eight losses. The Tornadoes won two finals on the road before being defeated 75-77 in overtime in a preliminary final against the Ringwood Hawks at the Rings on 28 August. In the 78-69 semi final victory against Nunawading Froling scored a game-high 31 points.

During the 2022 NBL1 South season Froling played 24 six games for the Launceston Tornadoes,  averaging 28.6 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.6 blocked shots per game. Froling recorded double-doubles in 21 of her 24 games for Launceston and in two other games fell one rebound short of reaching this benchmark. Keely Froling won two of the three NBL1 South Women’s statistical Awards, winning the awards for leading scorer (29.57 points per game) and leading rebounder (14.24 rebounds per game). Eltham Wildcats forward Anneli Maley averaged 19.5 rebounds per game but due to only playing eight games for the season didn’t qualify for the leading rebounder Award. Froling was one of four Launceston players that averaged more than 16.0 points per game in 2021/22 along with Griffin (24.4), Tolo (19.0) and Payne (16.3). Keely’s superb NBL1 South season was rewarded with selection in the All-Star 5 alongside twin sister Alicia.

Keely Froling will be playing her second consecutive WNBL season with the Sydney Uni Flames in 2022/23, having been a joint winner of the club’s MVP Award along with Shyla Heal in 2021/22.   

Tess Madgen – All Star 5

During the 2021 NBL1 South season guard Madgen excelled playing for the Bendigo Braves to rank third in the conference for assists per game. On 28 March 2022 the Bendigo Braves announced that Madgen had signed with the club for the 2022 NBL1 South season. Braves head coach Mark Alabakov commented on Madgen to nbl1.com.au “She can post up, play face up to the basket in on-balls and isolations, is a great cutter, and is a talented scorer and facilitator who you can rely on to make the right team play over and over, especially when it counts. When building a culture of winning, relentless persistence and playing the game the right way, Tess is on another level.”3

With Madgen and point guard Kelly Wilson leading the way the Bendigo Braves had 20 wins and two losses during the 2022 NBL1 South regular season to win the minor premiership. In each of her first three games with the Bendigo Braves in the 2022 NBL1 South season Madgen scored at least 29 points, took at least seven rebounds and had at least five assists.

Madgen maintained a high standard throughout the season and scored at least 29 points in 11 of her 16 games during the 2022 NBL1 South season. In addition to scoring Madgen was very adept at providing assists for her Braves teammates and had at least five assists in each regular season game that she played. In each of the Bendigo Braves last four regular season games Madgen had at least eight assists commencing with two games in which she registered a double-double for points and assists. In the first of these games Madgen scored 20 points, took nine rebounds and had a game-high 13 assists in a Braves 90-71 victory in a home game at Red Energy Arena against the Sandringham Sabres.

In the final round of the 2022 NBL1 South season Madgen scored 40 points and had eight assists in a Braves 96-81 victory against Kilsyth at the Kilsyth Sports Centre on 13 August. The following day Madgen scored 30 points, took six rebounds and made nine assists in Bendigo’s 96-87 victory against the Ballarat Miners at Selkirk Stadium. In both of Bendigo’s Round 16 games Madgen set game-highs for scoring and assists.  

Against the Nunawading Spectres in a qualifying final at Red Energy Arena on 20 August Madegn scored 29 points, took 12 rebounds and had seven assists to set game-highs in all three categories in the Braves 91-73 victory. Madgen scored a team-high 30 points in the Braves 73-89 Grand Final loss at the State Basketball Centre on 3 September.

During the 2022 NBL1 South season Madgen played 16 games for the Bendigo Braves, averaging 28.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Madgen ranked second in the NBL1 South women’s conference in scoring behind Keely Froling and third in assists behind Bendigo teammate Kelly Wilson and Eltham Wildcats forward Anneli Maley to earn selection in the NBL1 South women’s All Star 5.

Yesterday afternoon it was announced that Madgen will be the Australian Opals captain at the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October. Madgen will be one of five NBL1 South players representing the Opals along with Sara Blicavs (Geelong Supercats), Darcee Garbin (Frankston Blues), Anneli Maley (Eltham Wildcats) and Marianna Tolo (Launceston Tornadoes). 2022 NBL1 East Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson (Albury Wodonga Bandits) and 2022 NBL1 North All Star 5 member Cayla George are also members of the Australian Opals 2022 World Cup team, increasing the number of NBL1 players on the team at the major championship to seven. Madgen and George were both members of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers team that won the 2021/22 WNBL Championship and are both playing for the Boomers in the 2022/23 WNBL season.   

Alice Kunek – All Star 5

A decade after representing the Nunawading Spectres during the 2012 SEABL season Alice Kunek suited up for the Spectres during the 2022 NBL1 South season. On 3 May 2022 Kunek told nbl1.com.au “I’m really excited about joining the team for the NBl1 South season. I played for Nunawading many moons ago and loved my time there. It has always been such a strong family club with great culture. The girls are a great group and I am excited to be coached by Paul (Flynn).”4

In Round 4 against Casey at Casey Stadium Kunek played a brilliant all-round game to score a game-high 40 points, take nine rebounds and had an equal team-high five assists. Kunek made 12 of 17 two-point field goal attempts at an accuracy of 70.1% and made all 10 free-throws in Nunawading’s 95-76 road victory.

In a Round 9 home game at Nunawading Stadium against the Launceston Tornadoes Kunek scored a team-high 27 points shooting at 61.1% from the field, took an equal team-high seven rebounds, had six assists, three steals and blocked one shot in the Spectres 105-91 victory.

Five times during the 2022 NBL1 South season Kunek scored at least 27 points in a game including two games where she registered a double-double. At home in Round 6 Kunek scored 27 points and took 12 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories and also had four assists and four steals in a 81-58 victory against Kilsyth Cobras.

During the 2022 NBL1 South season Kunek played 17 games for the Nunawading Spectres and averaged 21.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Kunek led Nunawading in scoring and rebounding, ranked second for assists behind Rachel Antoniadou and was selected in the NBL1 South All-Star 5. Nunawading had 15 wins and seven losses during the regular season and finished fourth on the ladder.

Kuenk has signed with Hungarian club Sopron Basket for the 2022/23 season, her teammates will include fellow Australian Ezi Magbegor, 2021/22 WNBL defensive Player of the Year Brittney Sykes and two-time All-WNBA First Team member Courtney Vandersloot. Kunek and Magbegor have been Australian Opals teammates previously including as part of the Opals team that won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Townsville and the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Marena Whittle – All Star 5 and Grand Final Most Valuable Player

The Ringwood Hawks announced on 16 April that Marena Whittle would be playing her second consecutive NBL1 South season with the club in 2022. Ringwood Hawks head coach Tim Mottin commented “It’s great to have Marena back, she provides great energy for our team and her ability to contribute at a high level on both ends of the floor will be needed each game for us to achieve our goals.”5 

Whittle started the 2022 NBL1 season with Ringwood Hawks brilliantly to register double-doubles in four of her first five games of the season including two games with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. In a home game at The Rings on 7 May against Nunawading Whittle scored 22 points, took a game-high 19 rebounds – 11 more than the second ranked player for the game and made a game-high four steals in a 74-59 victory.

For her performances in Ringwood’s two home victories at Norwood Secondary College against Melbourne Tigers on 29 June and Waverley Falcons on 1 July Whittle was named the NBL1 South Round 10 women’s player of the week. Whittle scored 17 points and took a game-high 15 rebounds in Ringwood’s 71-47 victory against Melbourne. Against the Waverley Falcons Whittle scored a game-high 30 points and shot the ball proficiently to make 10 of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7% and was even more damaging from long-range, making all four three-pointers. Whittle also took an equal game-high eight rebounds along with Ringwood teammates Stautmane and Trotto in the Hawks 85-55 victory.  

Including finals Whittle played 21 games for the Ringwood Hawks during the 2022 NBL1 South season, averaging 21.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.7 steals per game. In 19 of 21 games Whittle scored at least 17 points and she registered 12 double-doubles for the season including all three finals. Whittle ranked second in the NBL1 South Conference for steals and in the top 12 for points and rebounds. Whittle was selected in the 2022 NBL1 South women’s All-Star 5, to earn Victorian State League All-Star 5 honours for the third time in her career, having been selected in the SEABL All-Star 5 in 2017 and 2018 whilst playing for the Nunawading Spectres.  

In the 2022 NBL1 South women’s Grand Final the Ringwood Hawks played minor premiers Bendigo Braves at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday afternoon 3 September. Whittle scored the first field goal of the game with a fade away jump shot 55 seconds into the game. Bendigo led Ringwood 43-41 at half-time. During the last eight minutes of the third quarter Whittle scored 10 points, comprised of a lay-up, fade-away jump-shot and two three-pointers to help Ringwood gain the ascendancy, turning a deficit early in the third quarter into a 14 point lead at the last change. Whittle scored 11 of Ringwood’s 15 points in the last quarter.

In the Grand Final victory Whittle played the full 40 minutes for Ringwood, scored a game-high 33 points, made 13 of 22 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 59.1%, made both three-point attempts and five of six free-throws at an accuracy of 83.3%. Whittle took a game-high 19 rebounds comprised eight offensive and 11 defensive, made four assists and an equal team-high two steals. In the Grand Final win Whittle registered an outright season-high in scoring and an equal season-high for rebounds and won the Grand Final Most Valuable Player Award.     

During the 2022 season Whittle missed some NBL1 games with Ringwood due to her commitments with the Australian Women’s 3×3 team at the 2022 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup and at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Whittle was a member of Australia’s silver medal winning team at the Asia Cup and the bronze medal winning team at the Commonwealth Games. In the 2022/23 WNBL season Whittle will be playing her third consecutive season with the Adelaide Lightning and will play alongside fellow Australian 3×3 team member Lauren Mansfield.  

Kelly Wilson – Golden Hands Award

Playing for the Bendigo Braves in the inaugural 2019 NBL1 season guard Kelly Wilson was exceptional, averaging 19.2 points, a phenomenal 10.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. to win the leagues Most Valuable Player Award and the Golden Hands Award.  

Due to COVID-19 an NBL1 season was not played in Victoria during 2020. After having her son Teddy in February 2021 Wilson wasn’t sure if she would return to playing basketball. On 2 July 2021 Wilson made her basketball return with the Bendigo Braves in NBL1 South. Wilson played three more games for the Bendigo Braves before the season was paused in early August due to COVID-19 and ultimately the remainder of the NBL1 South season was cancelled.

Over her decorated basketball career Wilson has accumulated quite the collection of state league honours and added to this by winning the 2022 NBL1 South Golden Hands Award which is calculated by using a formula. Wilson’s Golden Hands Rating of 7.38 was calculated by adding her total assists (165) and steals (45) during the regular season, subtracting turnovers (55) and dividing by regular seasons games played (21). It is the second time that Wilson has won the NBL1 South Women’s Golden Hands Award, having previously won the award in 2019. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the 2020 NBL1 South season was cancelled without any games being played and the 2021 NBL1 South season was unable to be completed, due to this end of season awards were not held in either season.

Including finals Wilson had at least five assists 19 times from 24 games during the 2022 NBL1 South season including four double-doubles, scoring at least 10 points and having at least 10 assists in this quartet of games. On July 23 and 24 Wilson registered double-doubles on consecutive days in Round 13, falling one rebound short of reaching a triple double in the Bendigo Braves opening game of the weekend against the Nunawading Spectres at Nunawading Stadium on 23 July. Against the Spectres Wilson scored 10 points, made 12 assists and took nine rebounds in an 82-70 victory. The following day in a Bendigo home game at Red Energy Arena Wilson scored 18 points with a field goal accuracy of 70% had 13 assists and three steals in the Braves 111-81 victory against the Hobart Chargers.

Wilson played 24 games for the Bendigo Braves during the 2022 NBL1 South season and averaged 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Wilson led the conference in assists per game and ninth for steals. The Bendigo Braves had 20 wins and two losses during the regular season to win the minor premiership, two wins ahead of the Ringwood Hawks. In the Grand Final Bendigo lost to Ringwood 73-89.

At the 2022 NBL1 South Awards Wilson won the Golden Hands Award which is calculated by using a formula. Wilson’s Golden Hands Rating of 7.38 was calculated by adding her total assists (165) and steals (45) during the regular season, subtracting turnovers (55) and dividing by regular seasons games played (21). It is the second time that Wilson has won the NBL1 South Women’s Golden Hands Award, having previously won the award in 2019.

In January 2022 Wilson became the first player in WNBL history to reach 400 WNBL games, achieving the milestone playing for the University of Canberra Capitals. Over 200 of Wilson’s WNBL games have been for Bendigo Spirit. In addition to winning the 2019 NBL1 league MVP Award Wilson also won the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) twice, in 2009 playing for the Braves and in 2013 playing for the Knox Raiders.

On the eve of Kelly Wilson playing her 400th WNBL game in January 2022 Milestones and Misses published an article comprehensively covering her basketball career in the SEABL, NBL1 and WNBL. A link to this article is below:

Digna Strautmane – Defensive Player of the Year

In the Ringwood Hawks opening game of the NBL1 season Latvian import Digna Strautmane made an instant impression, registering a double-double and fell just two blocked shots short of a triple-double in the Hawks 57-48 victory against Kilsyth Cobras at Norwood Secondary College on 21 April. Diggy scored 17 points and took 11 rebounds to rank second for the game in both categories behind teammate Whittle and with eight blocked shots accounted for an astonishing 80% of the blocked shots for the game by both teams combined. Over the course of the 2022 NBL1 South season Strautmane had at least four blocked shots in a game seven times.

Whilst more recognised for her work at the defensive end of the floor forward Strautmane also made a valuable contribution on offense to rank third at Ringwood in scoring behind Whittle and Marta Hermida. When Whittle missed three games due to Commonwealth Games commitments with Australia’s 3×3 team in late July Diggy took on more responsibility and scored at least 22 points in all three games. During Ringwood’s qualifying final Strautmane had a game-high 10 assists and in the Grand Final victory she had a team-high four three-pointers at an accuracy of 57% which included making back to back triples on consecutive Ringwood offensive possessions with 2 minutes and 41 seconds and two minutes and 11 seconds remaining in the second term.

Strautmane played all 25 games for Ringwood during the 2022 NBL1 South season and averaged 15.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 steals, 2.8 blocked shots and 34 minutes and 15 seconds court-time per game. Diggy led the NBL1 South for blocked shots per game, ranked third for steals and won the league’s defensive Player of the Year Award.

Jade Melbourne – Youth Player of the Year

In January 2022 the Ballarat Miners announced that guard, Jade Melbourne had signed with the club for the 2022 NBL1 South Season. The Miners Head Coach is David Herbert who was the Head Coach of the Australian Gems team that won a silver medal at the 2021 FIBA Under 19 World Cup with Melbourne as the team captain. On joining the Ballarat Miners Melbourne told NBL1.com.au “I’m a Vic Country girl and the idea of teaming up with Herbie and staying within the country set up and joining the Miners family is something I couldn’t say no to.”6

In the Ballarat Miners second game of the 2022 NBL1 South season against the Eltham Wildcats at home on 30 April at Selkirk Stadium Melbourne scored 20 points shooting at 50% from the field, took eight rebounds, had a season-high 10 assists and made seven steals in a 78-67 victory to set game-highs in scoring, assists and steals. This was one of eight games that Melbourne registered a double-double, in the other seven games in this category Melbourne reached double figures in points and rebounds.

Over the course of the 2022 NBL1 South season Melbourne scored at least 20 points in a game 12 times and in five of these games also had at least seven rebounds and at least seven assists. Melbourne had three consecutive games in this category against Keilor Thunder on July 9th – 27 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, Frankston Blues on July 16th 20-7-8, and Diamond Valley Eagles on August 6th 25-11-7.

The Ballarat Miners finished ninth with 13 wins and nine losses, one win behind the Launceston Tornadoes who finished eighth and secured the last finals spot, and just two wins behind the Mt Gambier Pioneers who finished third with 15 wins and seven losses. Melbourne played 19 games for the Ballarat Miners in 2022, averaging 20.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Melbourne won the 2022 NBL1 South women’s Youth Player of the Year Award and ranked 15th overall in the league in scoring per game, 10th in assists and eighth for steals.

On 11 April, 2022 Melbourne was selected by Seattle Storm at the 2022 WNBA Draft in the third round with pick 33 overall. As discussed with Seattle before the draft Melbourne remained in Australia, working on her game at NBL1 level with the Ballarat Miners in the South Conference before attending a training camp with Seattle in the future in a similar fashion to fellow Australian Ezi Magbegor who was drafted by Seattle in 2019 and made her WNBA debut with the Storm in 2020. Melbourne represented the Australian Opals at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup and in a three game series against Japan in New South Wales in May this year.

Melbourne who had her 20th birthday last month on 18th August will be playing her third consecutive season with the University of Canberra Capitals in the upcoming 2022/23 WNBL season. On 14 January, 2023 the Capitals will play a road game against the Melbourne Boomers in Jade’s home-town of Traralgon at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium (GRISS).

A link to an article published by Milestones and Misses on 16 April 2022 comprehensively covering Jade Melbourne’s basketball career is below:

Matt Sutton – Coach of the Year

In late April 2022 Mount Gambier women’s head coach Matt Sutton reached the significant milestone of a combined 250 games as a player and coach with Mount Gambier Pioneers.

Six players on Mount Gambier’s 2022 women’s team averaged more than 9.0 points per game during the 2022 NBL1 South season  – Cassandra Brown (19.4 points), Sherrie Calleia (15.4) Hannah Young (12.0), Haleigh Reinoehl (11.1), Jasmine Howe (10.1) and Shakera Reilly (9.5). Mount Gambier had 15 wins and seven losses to finish third at the end of the 2022 NBL1 South regular season. Mt Gambier lost a thrilling home semi final at the Ice House on 26 August to Waverley Falcons 85-87 in overtime.

During half-time of the NBL1 South women’s Grand Final Megan Hustwaite asked “Coach of the Year for the NBL1 Women’s south Conference, Matt Sutton, congratulations on the award last night, what did it mean to be recognised in that way?” Sutton responded “Real big honour, its an amazing league so to get honoured like that with some incredible coaches, but it is a real testament, good recognition for our group, the girls are amazing.”    

Bianca Vernon – Women’s Conference referee of the year

On 11 December 2021 Bianca Vernon achieved a long-term goal when she made her debut as a WNBL referee in the cross-town clash between the Melbourne Boomers and the Southside Flyers at Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville. Having been a referee for 15 years Vernon progressed to referee junior championships in 2014 and then Big V and NBL1 leagues before making her debut as a WNBL referee last season.

After being promoted to the WNBL Vernon told wnbl.basketball “This was my goal, I didn’t think I’d ever get to this level, juggling being a paramedic as well. It means a lot and highlights how much I love the game, I’ve been a ref since I was 17 so it’s been a long haul to get here so it’s a big deal and just shows that you can get there if you set your mind to it.”7

At the 2022 NBL1 South Awards Vernon won the Award as Women’s Conference referee of the year. Vernon was the referee crew chief for the Preliminary Final between Ringwood and Launceston and the Grand Final between Bendigo and Ringwood. Vernon is one of five NBL1 South referees that are members of the 18 referee panel for the NBL1 National Finals this weekend at the State Basketball Centre. Each of the five NBL1 conferences have at least two referees on the panel.   

Ringwood Hawks – NBL1 South women’s Champions

When NBL1 was established with only one conference in Victoria most of the teams that competed in the inaugural 2019 season transferred from the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL). The Ringwood Hawks were an exception, being one of four clubs along with Eltham Wildcats, Knox Raiders and Waverley Falcons that transferred from the Big V league to NBL1. Ringwood Hawks head coach Tim Mottin won the Coach of the Year Award for the NBL1 Women’s league in 2019.

Four of the eight players that averaged at least 12 minutes per game for Ringwood Hawks during the 2022 NBL1 season returned from the club’s 2021 roster, with players in this category being Marena Whittle, Jacqueline Trotto, Toni Farnworth and Dani Allen. Four new additions to the Ringwood Hawks that averaged more than 12 minutes per game in 2022 were European import duo Digna Strautmane and Marta Hermida along with Zoe Jenkins and Bella Niven-Brown.  

At full strength the Hawks starting line-up in 2022 has been Hermida, Trotto, Farnworth, Whittle and Strautmane. Ringwood won five of their first six games of the season and remained among the conference leaders for the rest of the season. Ringwood had 18 wins and four losses during the regular season to finish second, two wins behind the Bendigo Braves and three wins ahead of the five teams that finished third to seventh – Mt Gambier Pioneers, Nunawading Spectres, Geelong Supercats, Knox Raiders and Waverley Falcons.

Ringwood trailed Mt Gambier Pioneers 35-40 in their qualifying final at The Rings on 20 September. The Hawks outscored the Pioneers 42-31 in the second half to win 77-71. Ringwood had the two highest scorere for the game – Whittle (27 points) and Hermida (26). Ringwood centre Strautmane had a game-high 10 assists which was also her season-high.

In their preliminary final against Launceston at The Rings on 28 August Ringwood were conceding height to the Launceston front-court of Marianna Tolo (196 cm), Kelsey Griffin (190) and Keely Froling (188). At 191 centimetres tall Strautman was the only Ringwood Hawk over 182 centimetres tall. Both teams were evenly matched during the first quarter and locked at 20 points apiece at quarter-time. After the first change there were some massive momentum swings. Ringwood dominated the second quarter. During the second quarter Ringwood dominated 16-2 to lead by 14 points at half-time. With Launceston having a height advantage Ringwood were quick to double-team Tornadoes bigs when they caught the ball in the low block which proved to be effective.

Launceston were able to get the scoreboard ticking over again in the third quarter and outscore Ringwood 18-20 for the term to reduce the deficit to 12 points. In the first minutes and 15 seconds of the last quarter Launceston went on a 14-4 run fuelled by eight points from guard Mariah Payne including two three-pointers to reduce the margin to two points 56-58. At the end of regulation the two teams couldn’t be separated, finishing tied on 68 points apiece.  

During the first four minutes of overtime Ringwood were outscored 4-7 with Launceston centre Tolo scoring all seven points for her team. Hermida made a three-point jump-shot from the wing with 47 seconds left to tie the scores at 75 apiece. With three seconds remaining Hermida provided the assist for Trotto to make a lay-up and give the Hawks a 77-75 lead. A long-range jump shot from Payne on the buzzer missed and Ringwood were able to survive a late scare and win 77-75.

Three Ringwood players recorded double-doubles – Whittle 22 points and 10 rebounds, Strautmane 15 points and 11 rebounds along with Hermida 15 points and 11 assists. Tolo scored 32 points and took 11 rebounds whilst Froling and Griffin each took 16 rebounds and recorded double-doubles. The Tornadoes won the rebound count 60-45 whilst the Hawks took 15 steals to the Torns eight.   

In the 2022 NBL1 South women’s Grand Final the Bendigo Braves played the Ringwood Hawks at the State Basketball Centre on 3 September. Bendigo had two of the three players in the conference for assists per game on their team in Kelly Wilson and Tess Madgen. Whittle scored the first field goal of the Grand Final with a fade away jump shot 55 seconds into the game. Ringwood held the lead until a Tess Madgen three-pointer with eight minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave Bendigo a 25-23 lead. The sides were evenly matched for the rest of the second quarter and Bendigo led 43-41 at half-time.   

Bendigo scored the first two field goals of the third quarter to extend their lead to six points, 47-41 with eight minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the term. Ringwood reduced the margin to two points, trailing 49-51 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. For the next five minutes of the game Ringwood put on a phenomenal three-point shooting exhibition to make seven three-pointers and outscore Bendigo 23-3 and turn a two point deficit into a 16 point lead with one minute to play in the third quarter. During this blistering five minute period four Ringwood players made three-pointers, Digna Strautmane made the first three-pointer, followed by two thre-pointers from Marta Hermida, two there-pointers from Whittle and finally two three-pointers from Whittle. In the third quarter Ringwood outscored Bendigo 31-15 to lead 72-58 at the final change.

Ringwood’s lead was never threatened in the last quarter, outscoring Bendigo 17-15 for the term to win 89-73. Whittle was the stand-out for Ringwood with 33 points and 19 rebounds to set game-high’s in both categories and was joined in double-figures by three other starters – Hermida (19 points) Strautman (16) and Farnworth (13). Ringwood won the assist count 19-10 and were far more damaging from long-range to make 14 of 31 three-pointers at an accuracy of 45.2% whilst Bendigo made six of 23 triples at an accuracy of 26.1%. Three Bendigo players had three assists each, Wilson, Madgen and McLean. Three Ringwood players had more than three assists, Spanish point guard Hermida with a game-high eight assists and Strautmane and Whittle had four dimes each.  

In a post-game interview on Kayo Sports after the Grand Final victory Megan Hustwaite said “Tim, you are a Championship coach of Ringwood what does that mean to you?” Mottin responded “(Its) pretty special, very humbled by my team, I am in awe of how they can play. I am a very lucky coach to have such wonderful players and such assistance with me.”

Three Ringwood players averaged more than 15.0 points per game during the 2022 NBL1 South season, Whittle (20.2), Strautmane (16.4) and Hermida (15.7). Remarkably this trio all ranked in the top six of the women’s South conference for steals per game with Whittle second (2.67 steals per game), Strautmane third (2.52) and Hermida sixth (2.44).    

By winning the NBL1 South women’s Grand Final the Ringwood Hawks qualified for the NBL1 National Finals this weekend at the State Basketball Centre. Ringwood play their first game tonight against NBL1 East Champions Albury Wodonga Bandits on Court 1 at 6.30 pm. Three members of theBandits team were selected in the NBL1 East All Star five, Japanese guard Ai Yamada, Australian Opals forward Lauren Jackson and American centre Unique Thompson. Jackson has attended an Australian Opals training camp on the Gold Coast this week and due to Opals commitments in preparation for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Cup commencing in Sydney on September 22 will be not playing for Albury at the NBL1 Finals.   

The Hawks and Bandits are joined in the National NBL1 Finals by West Adelaide Bearcats (NBL1 Central), Warwick Senators (NBL1 West), Townsville Flames (NBL1 North) and Southern District Spartans (Wildcard). Each of the six teams in the NBL1 Women’s National Finals will play three games over the weekend.

“Teams will accumulate points over Friday and Saturday’s games, with the top two teams at the end of Saturday’s matches to compete in the NBL1 National Final. The NBL1 National Final uses the historically successful points system used by the NBL for the NBL Cup and the NBL Blitz. Three points will be awarded for a win and an extra point awarded for each quarter won. If the quarter is tied, each team gets half a point.”8

Two teams from NBL1 South will be competing in the men’s NBL1 National Finals this weekend, NBL1 South champions Hobart Chargers and wildcard winners Frankston Blues, they will be joined by  Rockingham Flames (NBL1 West), South Adelaide Panthers (NBL1 Central), Gold Coast Rollers (NBL1 North) and Canberra Gunners (NBL1 East).

During the women’s NBL1 South Grand Final on Saturday 3 September the Ringwood Hawks had a passionate fan base in the crowd and being the only Victorian team in the women’s National Finals will again have strong crowd support at the State Basketball Centre.

Article and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

 References

1 https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/alicia-froling-returns-to-bendigo/

2 https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7437194/froling-rolling-on-with-tornadoes/

3 https://nbl1.com.au/news/braves-women-add-another-star-for-2022

4 https://nunawadingspectres.nbl1.com.au/news/spectres-bolster-with-kunek

5 https://www.ozsportsonline.com/2022/04/16/ringwood-hawks-basketball-assoc-nbl1-signing/

6 https://nbl1.com.au/news/opal-jade-melbourne-joins-the-miners/

7 https://wnbl.basketball/blog/news/briana-vernon-selected-for-wnbl-debut/

 

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