Why Australian Opals star won't play Cyclones' season opener
BASKETBALL: For a fleeting moment, Rockhampton Cyclones coach Chris Muggeridge thought he would have his star recruit suit up for the QBL season opener.
Australian Opal Alice Kunek was playing in the Polish league but her team suffered a shock loss in the quarter-finals, meaning she was free to play the Cyclones' round-one clash against Gladstone on April 27.
But Muggeridge got word on Thursday that Kunek had been selected in the Australian 3x3 team, meaning she will miss the first two weeks of the QBL season.
WNBA champion Abby Bishop and towering centre Jacinta Vandenberg will also not arrive until round three, with the Cyclones to bring in several exciting and experienced players to fill the void.
New Zealand international Brooke Blair played for the Cyclones in their first pre-season trial against Mackay last weekend, but returned home for a Tall Ferns' camp.
She will, however, be back for round one.
The Cyclones and Rockets both head to Mackay today for their second trial game.
The Rockets were beaten 106-91 by the Meteors last weekend but will be boosted by the arrival this week of shooting guard Jamaal Robateau.
Muggeridge said the Cyclones were courageous in their 71-45 loss last weekend.
"We were very pleased with the outcome considering Mackay had a stacked team and we had a lot of our juniors and even some retired players who came back to play,” he said.
"We're taking a very young side up there this weekend.
"It's an opportunity for our up-and-coming stars to get some quality court time against a quality side.”
Muggeridge said the Cyclones would be well placed for their first game.
"We're going to have a very strong team for round one - and we need it,” he said. "We know that Gladstone have recruited well and they will want to start the season well.
"They'll want to defend their home court, so we know we've got to be ready, be on our game and prepared for an absolute arm wrestle in Gladstone.”
Muggeridge does not like to draw comparisons between Cyclones teams but has no doubts the 2019 outfit has what it takes to win the championship.
"We're very proud of the team we've put together and we believe we've got the roster that can win the QBL,” he said.
"It's all systems go - we're coming up to round one and that's where it starts. Every game is crucial.
"A lot of teams like to build up and get stronger over the year. We know we need to do that, but we also need to make sure we start strong and we don't drop games at the start of the season.
"The goal is to not only make finals but to host finals and hopefully a grand final in Rockhampton.”