Knights’ three-peat bid tough

Taj StubberAlbany Advertiser
Defending ABA premiers, Knights' Keanu Weeden and Henry Alforque.
Camera IconDefending ABA premiers, Knights' Keanu Weeden and Henry Alforque. Credit: Laurie Benson

One of the most even seasons on record is on the cards with the men’s and women’s A-grade competitions set to get under way tonight at Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre.

All eyes will be on reigning two-time premiers Knights as they chase a third successive title, but it will have to come without two of their key players from last season.

Knights are part of a new-look seven-team men’s top-tier competition, which has seen plenty of player movement during the off-season.

The departure of The Farm Athletics, Crabs and Kinjarling Thunder has led to a host of fresh faces among the five existing sides, plus newcomers Railways Tigers and Blazers.

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The loss of star Tom Edwards, who was the second leading scorer in the competition last season, combined with talented guard Henrick Alforque jumping ship to Railways, will leave a big void to fill for Knights as they start their title defence against Tigers this evening.

Blazers, headlined by the return of skilful guard Tom Powell, will face a defining first three weeks as they start against last season’s preliminary finalists Ambassadors tonight. That is followed by games against Barking Owls and then Raiders under-18 development squad.

Railways have added significant scoring power to their maiden A-grade team, with Kyle Smith, Kalin Lane and Henrick Alforque all averaging double figure points per game last season in different colours.

Their first-up task is not an easy one, however, with a clash against Owls who have been one of the most dominant teams in the past decade of senior basketball.

Railways will play both grand final teams from last season in a testing start to the new competition. New sides Valkyries and Kinjarling Storm will lead the opening round of the women’s A-grade competition.

Both sides have genuine title aspirations in the five-team women’s league while last season’s runners-up Panthers will look to start with a win over Crystal Blues, who are in their maiden season.

With the departure of last season’s premiers Magpies, there have been player changes across the board.

Jade Dimer has left Panthers to play for Kinjarling Storm and is joined by dynamic twins Narelle and Nardia Humphries, both part of Magpies’ winning campaign. Alyssa Ward, sisters Tayeesha and Indianna Weeden and tall Macy Lane give Valkyries plenty of firepower in contrast.

The first-round clash between Kinjarling and Valkyries looks set to be a beauty. Valkyries then face challenging matches against Crystal Blues and Panthers.

Panthers have a number of new faces for their 2019-20 campaign and should be strong contenders while Raiders and new side Crystal Blues are the unknown outfits of the competition.

A record 221 teams have registered for this season, which officially started last night.

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