WARRNAMBOOL basketballer Nicole Hunt hopes to return to the court for round three of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season.
The Canberra Capitals guard is in the final weeks of her recovery from a serious right ankle injury which has kept her sidelined since May.
The WNBL season gets under way today, with the Capitals taking on Sydney Uni Flames at the AIS Arena in Canberra, broadcast live on ABC1 from 3pm.
But fans won’t see Hunt until the Capitals’ October 20 match against Bendigo Spirit, also at the AIS Arena.
Hunt, 24, suffered the injury playing for Canberra in round one of the South East Australia Basketball League (SEABL) in March.
She missed a month of basketball but was still hampered by the injury on her return, prompting surgery in May.
“I’m hoping for round three (to return),” Hunt told The Standard yesterday. “That’s if everything goes according to plan and so far it has. I’m looking forward to this weekend, even though I’m not playing.
“It’s nice to play the first game at home. The last few years we’ve been on the road in round one.”
Hunt said the setback was frustrating.
“I had the previous (SEABL) season off. I didn’t play to refresh and have a break mentally and that was wonderful,” she said.
“I was really looking forward to getting some games under my belt and keeping my fitness up.
“SEABL is a really tough comp and it was going to prepare me well for the WNBL. But you deal with these things as they come.”
Her recovery has included gym and off-court work. She started running in the past month although is still lacking match fitness.
“I haven’t been able to have any pre-season games under the belt, which is going to make it a little bit difficult,” she said.
“But getting back into training and getting that match and court fitness back will help.”
The Capitals have finished the past two WNBL seasons in eighth spot — the first time in club history they have missed finals two years running.
But the Carrie Graf-coached side has welcomed back Australian Opals and club legends Natalie Hurst and Abby Bishop from Europe.
Lauren Jackson’s return was also in the pipeline before the gun centre walked away from negotiations after the club failed to meet a contract deadline.
“We’ve had two really disappointing years,” Hunt said. “We lost games by small margins the last few years but we’ve missed out on finals — that’s now where everyone wants to be.
“The Capitals have a wonderful history of winning championships and winning finals. It’s definitely a goal to get back into finals.”
Hunt, who is about to start the second year of a two-year contract, said the arrival of Hurst meant her role as a starting point guard would change.
Hunt could come off the bench to replace Hurst, although Graf has foreshadowed rotating the pair between the point and shooting guard positions.
“I’m excited to learn as much as I can and train with Nat week in, week out,” Hunt said.
The 19-round WNBL season runs from today to mid-February, before a three-week finals series.