Launceston Tornadoes prepared for Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence and Canberra Capitals Academy

POTENT: Launceston Tornado Tayla Roberts is averaging 23.6 points per game so far this season and should be kept busy in Canberra. Picture: Scott Gelston
POTENT: Launceston Tornado Tayla Roberts is averaging 23.6 points per game so far this season and should be kept busy in Canberra. Picture: Scott Gelston

LAUNCESTON Tornadoes will spend this weekend in the nation’s capital for an important double-header to start the season’s second half.

Richard Dickel’s charges are third on the South Conference table with an 8-4 win-loss record and refreshed following the competition bye leading into a Friday bout against East Conference teams Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence and Canberra Capitals Academy on Saturday.

COE boasts the country’s best juniors and have so far racked up seven wins, while the Capitals are struggling with just two positive results to their name.

“Both the teams are fairly decent, the COE team is very good. They don’t have too many gaps but they are young and hopefully we can put some pressure on them and get the right result,” Dickel said on Wednesday.

“We will be looking for Olivia Chugg and Jayde Brazendale to support Tayla Roberts at both ends of the court to control the boards.

“We learnt from our last match against Ballarat that there are no easy games and every game will be a contest.”

The Torns will be without injured pair Ellie Collins (hip) and Ali Partridge (finger) for both encounters, which will be captain Lauren Mansfield’s last before she heads to the US to train with the Australian Opals for two weeks. Dickel said the focus is on tuning the Torns for a tilt at the play-offs.

“We just play each game to win… and with Lauren it’s going to be tough for two weeks but it’s an opportunity for one of the other girls to step up. We are working on a few things in training to allow that to happen,” he said.

“We have a couple of injuries to important players for us… [but] every team is going to have some injuries during the season and it’s important that we all pull together this weekend to ensure we cover those players.

“We’ve obviously got a few areas to work on, especially defensively, but we are trying to get better each and every week and hopefully we set ourselves up to make a real run at the play-offs.”

Launceston is the second best offence Southern team with Roberts (23.6 points per game), Mansfield (18 points, 6.2 assists) and Lauren Nicholson (14.1 points).

In other news, former Tornadoes import Mikaela Ruef has signed with intrastate foes Hobart Chargers after unsuccessful tryouts with WNBA club the Los Angeles Sparks earlier this year.

“Unfortunately with the rules the way they are we couldn’t bring her back, we’ve got our quota of restricted players (Roberts, Mansfield and Nicholson),” Dickel said.

“We wish her all the best and good luck to Hobart… we look forward to seeing them on court.”