Understrength Wagga Blaze to test youth and depth against St George

Wagga Blaze will take an opportunity to test their depth – and gauge how they’re tracking towards long-term goals – when they take a seven-player squad to Sydney on Saturday.

The Blaze will play St George at Hurstville without Hannah Martin, Ella Finemore and Claudia Barton, as well as Steph Male.

“They’re part of the core but we’re bringing in a couple of development players who are very capable players as well, hopefully they’ll be able to step up,” Blaze coach, Peter O’Leary said.

Guard Jessica Sommerfield, from Narrandera, and Wagga’s Olivia Fawns (centre) will get an opportunity against a team the Blaze beat comfortably in May.

We’re bringing in a couple of development players who are very capable players as well. - Peter O'Leary, Blaze coach

Sitting third on the ladder, O’Leary said it’s an ideal chance to blood young talent.

“That’s what we’re doing and hopefully we get the win because they’re the side we’ve been most successful against, but every team in the league is competitive.

“We played poorly in the first half against them last game and it was only in the second half that we got over the top and locked it down.”

Taking their time to get into games is a bad habit, including in their last outing, an overtime loss to top of the table Shoalhaven. 

“We’ve got to be able to play the full game.” O’Leary said.

“We’ve been saddled with slow starts for the last two or three games and that puts us in a catch-up situation.

“It’s not a comfortable feeling when you’ve got to come from behind to win.”

The Blaze are two-and-four, with another six games to come but ladder positions are only part of the story.

“Obviously our ambition is to finish as high as we can go,” O’Leary said.  

“But our ambition is to build the program in Wagga.

“We have about 10 in our core team and eight in the development squad, all who want to play basketball.

“So we're building that program,. Not running any imports, just local girls.

“We're doing it with a view that in two or three seasons we'll be up there with the best teams and doing it with our own girls.”

The Heat will also take on St George at Hurstville on Saturday, but face a tougher task.

They’re sitting 10th on the ladder, with six wins from 11 games and take on a side in the top five, which has dropped just four games in 13. 

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