date_range Published 15 May 2018

Story by Jeff Cheshire ODT

Ajax will be among the contenders but will face tough competition to defend its women’s club basketball title.

The season begins tonight, when the perennial favourite faces Varsity in the opening match at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin.

Having maintained the majority of its championship roster, it will no doubt enter with confidence.

It brings a well-balanced roster with a mix of youth and experience. Natalie Smith provides it with a quality big, while it has several perimeter threats in the likes of Danielle Frost, Nicole and Aleisha Ruske and Olivia O’Neill.

That five will be key for the side, although it has several capable youngsters in its squad as well.

On paper, the South Pac Magic looks to be its toughest opponent.

Boasting several athletic guards, as well as bringing quality size inside, the Magic has a range of weapons and look to have improved on last year.

Guard Dayna Turnbull - the 2016 league MVP - returns after a year off with injury, while Claudia Flaws will be among the league’s best pick-ups.

Soraya-Umaga Jensen and Georgia Te Au both return to bring quality in the backcourt, while Natalie Visger brings size and experience.

Varsity has lost key players in Grace Love and Jeanie Pattison, although has added Gold Rush newcomer Kelly Thompson to its roster.

She will join an otherwise settled squad, which also boasts Gold Rush players Bronwyn Kjestrup and Rosie Davison.

The Andy Bay Falcons will get much of their firepower out of twins Brittany and Zoe Richards.

Both are coming off their second seasons of college basketball in the United States.

Alana Wouters, who has moved south from Christchurch, is a handy pick-up, while a solid core of the side from the past two years returns.

Meanwhile new team Andy Bay Kavanagh brings several talented youngsters to the fore.

It has New Zealand under-15 duo Annabelle Ring and Anita Samasoni, alongside last year’s Otago under-17 MVP Dre Whaanga.

Ex-Kavanagh sisters Matile and Mariana Ioane add experience.

It takes on the Magic in its season opener, while the Falcons begin with a bye.