And we’re back!
We’ve recharged the batteries and carbo-loaded with enough potatoes and stuffing to get through the second half of the 2021/2022 Country Basketball League season!
Let’s take a look around the eight conferences to see who is starring, which teams have made the most of the first half of the season and how we’re placed as we eye off the finals in February.
Warragul has shone throughout the early phase of the CBL season, taking five high-calibre scalps including Traralgon and Churchill. With experience and a settled line-up giving them plenty of options, the Warriors are well-placed with Jarryd Moss, Mike Santo and Ambu Uliando. These guys have championship experience and are hungry to add another banner to the rafters at the Leisure Centre.
While the unbeaten Warriors are the team to chase, there’s plenty of firepower across the rest of the division as Traralgon – led by the D’Angelo double in Luis and Christian – have scarcely faltered this campaign. The defending champions Maffra – with the championship tandem in Sam and James Whelan - are well in the mix and sit atop a log-jam for the final spots in the finals equation as Churchill, Korumburra and Moe all have three wins in the bag as well. Will take some doing to break this deadlock and find the finalists heading towards February, but it all makes for entertaining basketball across Gippsland!
The T-Birds return to CBL action in 21/22 has been flawless so far. Five huge wins – leading to a whopping 190 percentage – has got Traralgon in superb touch ahead of the second half. Tanarly Hood, Samantha Labros, Monai Porykali, Sienna Privetera… there’s power across the roster and plenty of bench-depth to boot. What will it take to take them down?
It’ll be a big ask to best who seemingly are the best so far but Korumburra is chasing hard. With its only loss of the season being to Traralgon while suffering from a depleted line-up, you can’t chalk the Wildcats out just yet. Alahna Arnason, Chloe Hogg and Zali Rogers have led the offence excellently and there’s plenty within the bench reserves to boot. The replay on Sunday 16 January will tell a lot about this conference race and will be one not to miss!
It’s hard to know how the conference stacks up quite yet, but the big race between Moe, Wonthaggi, Maffra and Sale to pick up those last two finals spots will be a brawl for finals basketball.
NORTH EAST MEN
You can scarcely split this conference as Seymour, Wallan and Wodonga all sit with a 4-1 record and have been flying to start this season. There are stars across the board tearing it up in the conference – the Blasters’ Tom O’Connor and Jordan Hockley have caught attention alongside Panthers’ Ryan Phiippe and Max Viitala and the Wolves’ Samuel Hawkins and Toby Cossor. You can raffle off this championship at this stage – good thing we’ve got half a season left to figure out the top dog in the comp!
Rounding out the potential finalists will be a battle for fourth between Benalla and Myrtleford, with Wangaratta and Mansfield chasing that pack down too.
NORTH EAST WOMEN
There’s something in the water in the North East, as the women’s competition is also incredibly close at the midway point of the season. Wallan, Wodonga, Seymour and Myrtleford are only split by a solitary win. Wallan has been perfect to start the season that said – the Panthers have played thrice and won each time – led with the starring efforts of Carley Cranston and Kaitlyn Wakartschuk – to be in the driving seat heading towards February. Seymour and Wodonga can hardly be ruled out either with firepower across all lines – Seymour’s Australian representative Dyani Ananiev alongside Leah Swain and Maddison Ford while Wodonga can never be ruled out when Amellia Hassett, Jade McCowan and Caitlin Reid continue to fire on all cylinders. It leaves the conference up in the air and it’ll be an exciting finish to the regular season before we head off to the finals.
NORTH WEST MEN
Maryborough and Bendigo are battling it out for the bragging rights in the conference currently, with both Blazers and Braves alike sharing a 5-1 record after a strong start to the season. Maryborough faltered at the last hurdle against Echuca before the Christmas break, but otherwise the Blazers took no prisoners. Big wins against Macedon Ranges and Bacchus Marsh highlight the Blazers’ strength as Darcy Bond, Brady Neill and William Hynes have posted fantastic figures across the year.
Bendigo’s runback towards a back-to-back CBL championship is shaping up nicely too as the Braves have shown plenty through last year’s Grand Final MVP Trent Leech as well as Victorian representatives Dyan McCauley and Macey Eaton. There’s plenty beyond those names in the Braves’ depth-chart though, which will keep Bendigo as a significant threat heading into the second half of the season.
League newcomers Macedon Ranges are performing well in its debut CBL season with the Rockies fighting their way up to fourth with a 3-2 record led by Billy Feben, Jordan Kirk and Matthew Quinn, holding off the likes of Echuca and Swan Hill for the last spot in the top four.
NORTH WEST WOMEN
Seeking more banners to hang from the rafters, Bendigo is excelling in its runback campaign as Caitlin Richardson, Meg McCarthy, Brianna Burt and Erin Condron have put up impressive tallies already. It’s a young line-up, but in classic Bendigo fashion what they don’t have in experience, they make up for in sheer talent. The 5-1 start, only spoiled with a 77-79 hiccup against Mildura in Round 2, would have everyone pleased as the side aims to stay atop the table heading towards February.
Castlemaine has savoured its first season back in the CBL Women’s competition with a fantastic start to the year as former Braves Sharna Appleby and Hayley Harrington haves starred for the new side alongside Milly Wicks and Renee Brown.
Mildura, Maryborough and Echuca are all in the mix for a spot in the finals, but it’s hard to rule out Kyneton, even with its difficult 1-4 start.
SOUTH WEST MEN
Colac has stamped its claim on the CBL championship out in the south west with an emphatic start to the season. Wins over Portland and Horsham have stamped the Kookas’ presence in the competition and the results are showing. Five wins on the trot and strong performances from a number of players including Josh Fiegert, Conner Hultgren, Jake O’Flynn and Jordan Lingard have got all eyes on chasing down Colac which sits comfortably atop the South West Men’s conference.
Who will chase them down – Portland, Warrnambool, Horsham and Terang are well in the mix and time will tell how the conference shakes itself up to fit those five into four finalists. Keep an eye on Portland – Nathan Hardingham, Jackson Dunlop and Sam Peters - and Warrnambool - with Ben Walters, Riley Nicolson and James Mitchell - putting up strong stats.
SOUTH WEST WOMEN
Warrnambool has been magnificent this season and scarcely challenge. Mt Gambier and Horsham were closest, but even then the likes of Leah Bartlett, Molly McKinnon, Molly McLaren and the youngsters Mia Mill asnd Cigi Lual… there is so much in the tank for the Mermaids heading into the second stanza of this season. They will take some beating as they resume this weekend against Portland and Mt Gambier on the road.
Speaking of, Mt Gambier is well placed heading out of the break with Olivia Wormald, Sophie Miles and Keryl Ousey starring across the Lakers’ four wins this season. Horsham and Portland are in the mix to take the remaining finals spots in the conference, but who will take third or fourth? Plenty left in this conference as the chasers try to hunt down the Mermaids.