Torns missing pivotal pair

THE Launceston Tornadoes will be without two important players when they begin their SEABL season with a double-header road trip this weekend.

The Torns will be missing  2013 MVP Olivia Howard who has a recurrence of a knee injury and is expected to be out for two weeks. 

Key import and WNBL rookie of the year Alex Wilson will also miss the road trip after making a return home to South Australia for family reasons. 

Wilson is expected to rejoin the Tornadoes for their first home game the following weekend.

``It is disappointing that we travel without two of our key starters but, on the upside, it will give an early opportunity for some of the other girls knocking on the starting five door to step up and prove themselves,'' Tornadoes coach Peta Sinclair said.

The road trip is one of the toughest of the year and includes 10 hours of travel and games against two quality teams in Albury-Wodonga and Knox Raiders. 

``The travel is tough no doubt, but we've worked too hard in the pre-season to let this and injury knock us back,'' Sinclair said.

`` We are hungry for that first win and will be looking to prove a point to all that we are a force to be reckoned with in 2014.''

Albury-Wodonga had a similar season to the Tornadoes last year, finishing with just two wins, but has bolstered its core group of locals with some big recruits like Maddy Plunkett, former WNBL player Lauren Angel and US import Rachael Maanapea. 

``They have also secured newly graduated player Sophie Kleeman, who has just returned from four years in the US,'' Sinclair said. 

``We're both coming in as the underdogs trying to prove ourselves so it will be a fierce match-up.'' 

Reigning champions Knox Raiders have retained the majority of their players.

``They will again look to their key players, Bendigo Spirit WNBL stars Kelly Wilson and Gabrielle Richards, to lead the squad into another premiership,'' Sinclair said.

``If we can shut those two down then we're in with a chance.'' 

The SEABL website has predicted the Torns will finish in the bottom three of their conference. 

``That's a challenge for us to prove them wrong, they've underestimated us, our energy and preparation,'' Sinclair said. 

The Tornadoes are hopeful of a win on the road before their first home game of the season on Sunday, March 30.

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