Launceston Tornadoes have attempted early to stave off a potential mass exodus of their 2018 starting five.
Just 24 hours after the club confirmed Ellie Collins would head back to Hobart, captain Lauren Mansfield has indicated she will remain in Western Australia.
Mansfield had signed to play with WNBL club Perth Lynx over the summer.
But the Tornadoes have tempered the loss by signing American-born point guard Stephanie Gardner to step into Mansfield’s breach.
Gardner will join the team after finishing a stint in Sweden at Wetterbygden Sparks.
Tornadoes chair Janie Finlay said she was “thrilled” to announce their first signing.
“We have been working very hard since the end of the 2018 season and the finish of the SEABL competition,” Finlay said.
“Next season we start in a new, very exciting competition and we welcome a new, exciting player into the Tornadoes family.”
Mansfield told the club she needed a winter off to fully recover from the injuries that hampered her recent seasons with the Tornadoes, and to prepare better for the 2019-20 WNBL season.
The 29-year-old battled plantar fasciitis in the foot to finish off the 2018 SEABL season after she was stretchered in a home game in May.
That came after Mansfield spent three months sidelined from surgery back in 2016 with a high ankle sprain that also required a moonboot on the return from playing for WNBL club South-East Queensland Stars.
The Australian Opal departs the Tornadoes after first arriving at Elphin Sports Centre for the 2013 season.
“We have been blessed to have an outstanding point guard with our team for a number of years in Lauren and we’re hoping that Stephanie can fill the gap Lauren will leave,” Finlay said.
“We thank Lauren for her amazing contribution to our team and our club, and wish her all the very best in her future basketball endeavours.”
The Torns expect to make further player announcements in the coming weeks.
Coach Derrick Washington is set to resume preseason in early-February to work with Launceston-based players until his contracted imports arrive a month later, two to three weeks before the 2019 season tipoff.