QSNL 2017 Preview: Golden South Jaguars, Wide Bay Thundercats

Golden South Jaguars

Squad: Aleesha Adams, Leigh Alder, Kari Arrow, Katie Brown, Courteney Chapman, Peta Coles, Jessica Donnelly, Jade Fiscalini, Bryah Gafa, Shenae Grant, Ashlee Gray, Liz Hales, Rebecca Hong, Laura King, Sarah Kitcher, Michelle Newgrosh, Jessie O’Rourke, Kristen Oxenford, Brianna Purvis, Sarahpheinna Woulf.

Division 1

Coach: Linda Peterson.

2016 finish: Third.

2016 season snapshot: The Jaguars finished 5-5 in the regular season to qualify for finals, where they lost in the dying seconds of their grand final qualifier. The Gold Coast-based side built strongly as the season progressed and will be hoping to go all the way to the grand final this year.

Key players: Kristen Oxenford (C): “Kristen stands out as an elite player and has been our captain for the last few years,” coach Linda Peterson said. “She’s very controlled, calm and has a great balance of game. Her defensive work rate as well as her attacking game is excellent. She offers that never say die attitude.”

Alicia Adams (GS): “This will be Alicia’s first year in division one officially and I’m excited to see what she can do,” Peterson said. “She’s been training hard and offers a really nice target. She shoots at massive volume at 90 per cent plus, so she’ll be a player to watch.”

What to expect in 2017: “The consistency last year with this group was much better compared to my first year in charge and we’ll look to build that again this year,” Peterson said. “We’ve got five new players this year, but I’m expecting high standards. If we’re on our game and if we can replicate that consistency, I don’t see why we can’t reach that grand final. I’m confident in the young players and believe in having a mix of experienced players and youth.”

First five fixtures: Lions, Cougars, Lynx, Tigers, Wildcats.

Division 2

Coach: Julie-Anne Penklis.

2016 finish: Second (City).

2016 season snapshot: The Jaguars finished 2016 with an impressive 8-4 regular season record and were ably led by star shooter Aleesha Adams. They were narrowly beaten in the semi-finals by grand finalists Brisbane West Lions 45-49.

Key players: Jessica Donnelly (C): “Jess has grown into the game nicely,” said coach Julie-Anne Penklis. “She’s a thinking player, very skilful and I think the best of her is to come. She’s a great playmaker, is very disciplined and will make sacrifices for her team.”

Laura King (GA): “Laura was a shadow player last year and has developed so much as a player since then,” Penklis said. “She’s a great shooter with a lot of natural talent that hasn’t been fully exposed yet. She’s young, coachable and willing to try anything thrown at her. She’s been a stand-out in pre-season.”

What to expect in 2017: “We’ll have a completely new shooting panel this year, but I think the competition across the board this year will be at another level,” Penklis said. “There isn’t a weak side in the competition. I’d like to think we will perform well against the best the division has to offer.”

First five fixtures: Wildcats, Bye, Tigers, Lynx, Cougars.

Wide Bay Thundercats

Squad: Emily Arnold, Demi Burgess, Jamie Burgess, Natasha Cross, Casey Daniel, Keely Dodd, Katie Jay Illingworth, Sarita Narayan, Breanna Simpson, Emma Taber, Briony Thompson, Chelsea Walker.

Coach: Sandy Baker.

2016 finish: Last (Country).

2016 season snapshot: Depth proved the biggest barrier to the Thundercats success last year as they finished with only the single point from the season. Injuries derailed their chance at success, but they’ll be hoping for improvement with a new crop of players at the helm.

Key players: Emily Arnold (C/WA): “She’s new to Bundaberg and she has great agility,” coach Sandy Baker said. “She’s quick on the court, which is what we need in our centre court this year. She’s well-rounded and a great asset.”

Jamie Burgess (GS): “Jamie is very tall and this will be her first year in Thundercats,” Baker said. “We’ve lacked a bit of height in the circle over the years and Jamie has great potential.”

What to expect in 2017: “We’ve been training since late 2016 and the results are showing on court now,” Baker said. “Our fitness levels are good. Our depth is a lot better and we’ll be seeking consistency through the four quarters. Last year we’d go great for two quarters before falling in a hole. With the fitness levels I’m confident we can put together better performances across the board.”

First five fixtures: Bye, Claws, Marlins, Steelcats, Claws.