The UC Capitals start the season with a home game against Bendigo on Friday night.
Despite plenty of personnel changes at the Capitals during the off-season with a turnover of players and coaches, there is a sense of familiarity within the organisation.
Championship player Kristen Veal returns as head coach, joining her teammate from those golden years, now UC Capitals general manager, Lucille Bailie, and their coach from those heady times, UC’s director of sport, Carrie Graf.
It would appear as though the band is back together.
After a couple of years of uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a sense of normality in the leadup to the start of the season.
“Vealy was part of the first championship team,” Lucille Bailie said. “She is part of the UC Capitals family. Given the bumpy ride over the past couple of years, familiarity and certainty are important. We have a lot of confidence in what we do. We are a very successful club.”
That confidence has extended to the playing group, which includes young star, Jade Melbourne, 37-year-old veteran, Britt Smart, and the ageless Alex Bunton.
On the back of 11 knee surgeries, Alex didn’t play a preseason trial to ensure she was injury-free to start the season. It has worked to perfection.
“I feel amazing. My body feels great,” Alex said. “I am injury-free but it needs to be managed.”
At the other end of the age spectrum is 19-year-old Abby Solway, who is in her second year as a development player with the Caps.
“Last year I came in late,” Abby said. “I was really nervous. I feel more comfortable now with a number of teammates from my season with the Canberra Nationals. If I made my debut this season it would be a dream come true.”
Abby recently unearthed photos of herself with some of the stars of yesteryear. “I followed the Caps all the way through. I idolised players such as Jess Bibby and Kristen Veal.”
Kristen Veal is excited ahead of the opening game against the Bendigo Spirit on Friday night. The 4 November game at the Convention Centre will be the first of 11 home games to be played at the venue this season.
“We’ve had six weeks preseason,” she said. “We’ve had time to put a good system in place.”
With a number of changes in the playing roster Kristen said there was a perception of the unknown within her team and said there was a sense of freshness among team members.
“We want to be groundbreaking in the environment that we create,” she said. “We are enjoying what we are doing.”
Another factor in the WNBL mix this season is the return of UC Capitals champion Lauren Jackson.
At 41 years of age, Lauren is back in the league playing for the Southside Flyers. Lauren will come up against her former team in round six on 18 December. This is definitely one of many games to watch.
But for now, the UC Caps are concentrating on the game against Bendigo this Friday night.
For Friday’s game and all the games ahead they will once again feed off the incredible community spirit generated through their work on and off the court.
And with that community support, they are striving to go even bigger and better this season.
The UC Capitals host the Bendigo Spirit on Friday, November 4, 6.30pm tip-off at the National Convention Centre. Tickets can be purchased here