Lauren Mansfield is facing a race against time to be fit for the WNBL opener at new club Perth Lynx on Saturday.
The Launceston captain hurt her left foot back in May during the SEABL season, but agitated the plantar fasciitis injury on the eve of the Australian Opals’ first World Cup appearance last month.
The 28-year-old was set to debut at her third WNBL side, along with rookie and Tornadoes teammate Ellie Collins, after returning to scrimmage at Wednesday’s practice.
But Mansfield felt the final call to play against original club Adelaide Lightning will be taken out of her hands.
“I’m not sure whether I’ll play or not,” Mansfield said.
“With my injury, I’ve been slowly progressing through it – it’s been a bit of a process.
“I’ll have another training on Friday and see how I feel the next day on Saturday. It’ll probably be up to the physio.”
Mansfield’s injury frustrations have been tempered further by missing the Opals silver-medal performance.
The Asian Cup debutant from just 12 months earlier found it hard to watch games.
“It was a real struggle for me,” Mansfield said.
“Just the timing of it after just making the team hurt – that had been one of my goals. So not being able to play in the World Cup was really hard for me.”
The point guard joins Opal Katie-Rae Ebzery in a formidable back court and WNBA import Asia Taylor returning for a third year in Australia.
But it was Mansfield who was chosen to spearhead a new television campaign for the WNBL ahead of her star teammates in the lead-up to Perth’s home game shown to a national audience.
“I’m very honoured but it’s awesome to be one of those faces of the league,” she said.
The latest Lynx marketable commodity is almost as delighted to have Collins also land at the same club.
Mansfield said the rising Torns talent has been in her element training the house down in a first WNBL stint.
“I always thought Ellie had a lot of potential and had the ability to play at WNBL level, so it’s awesome to see her get an opportunity,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to watching her progress and she’ll definitely continue to improve as she’s still young.”
Collins will start in Perth as a relative unknown after making great inroads in two seasons at Launceston.
The 20-year-old has been soaking it up for five weeks.
“It’s a whole another world over here,” Collins said.
“It’s definitely the next step up in your game. You can tell it’s a professional club.”
Collins is confident that back-to-back Torns seasons that includes reaching the top four has prepared her for what to expect in the WNBL.
That extends to a testing preseason game against Bendigo Spirit, which included a number of Bendigo Braves from the SEABL grand final.
Collins proved her lot in that 119-96 loss from a team-high 26 points that night.
“I was playing against a lot of WNBL players already,” she said. “So I do know that I can compete at this level.”
Collins nearly doubled her scoring this year, averaging 16.3 points per game and 45 per cent from beyond the arc.
But Lynx coach Andy Stewart has different plans for the power forward, instructing Collins to focus setting screens to open up the shotmaking for teammates.
“I think I’m pretty lucky to be in the position that I am in – I definitely expect to play minutes,” she said.
“Most players who go into their first WNBL season, it’s kind of rare for them to play minutes, but with our game style we’ll rotate a lot.”