Pakenham ready to take step forward

Hayley Letts is among the young talent that got exposure last season. 333282 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Jonty Ralphsmith

The Pakenham Warriors have added depth and class to their women’s unit for the 2024 season.

After having a young roster in 2023, the Warriors have added import Erica Meyer and former NBL1 player Bree Whatman.

Their addition, alongside the valuable experience that the likes of Hayley Letts and Chloe Zielinski gained last season, has increased coach Rob Dielemans’ belief in what they can achieve this season.

“The expectation this year is we need to be making finals,” Dielemans said.

“We understand we have a significantly better group and deeper group than last year.

“Our ability to score with the ball should be significantly better.

“We’ll be able to defend with different looks and we’ve spent a lot of time on defensive half-court structures during the preseason to make people better at defending one-on-one and in group situations.

“The way the game plans and structures have come together – girls are fitting in really well with it and they have a grasp of the major concepts at this point.”

The experience of Whatman is set to shine through with the coach lauding her ability to bring her teammates together.

“She adds class, finishing, leadership, shooting and scoring ability that sometimes you sit there and go ‘this is good fun to watch’,” Dielemans said.

“Her ability to read the way things are being defended, particularly when it is around her, is phenomenal to be fair.”

Fellow recruits Meyer and Youth League graduate Gemma Hancock both add important size to the team, measuring 6’3″ and 6’4” respectively, set to complement the class of returning import Haille Nickerson.

“(Meyer) will be a great defensive presence around the rim for us and she gives us an interior presence, not just guarding the basket and changing shots but at the other end, she’s a legitimate post target to look at.

“It makes us a very different looking team in the way we play.

“Whilst having some scoring ability she is also a great passer out of the post as well, so there will be opportunity for inside-outside play for the guards.”

The women’s season kicks off on Sunday at Cardinia Life against Hume at 1pm as part of a double-header with the men’s game.