Imports, captain to lead rich line-up of talent
BASKETBALL: As one of the most experienced coaches in the state league, Brad George has never rejected a challenge.
In recent years, he's fearlessly introduced young players into the Ipswich Force program with an eye to the future.
His record speaks for itself, regularly guiding his teams into the Queensland Basketball League Women's competition finals.
While that remains his first major goal this season, George is opting for even younger players as Ipswich prepares for its first home game tonight.
Preparing to face Cairns, this year's Force side features a rich vein of Ipswich talent with state junior players like Catherine MacGregor stepping up alongside exciting 2017 recruits Rachel Mate and Georgia Williams.
"The association wants to see the young kids come through,'' George said.
"I've always wanted that and it's good.
"The bench is going to be made up of all our young ones who will step up and play at every opportunity.
"I always like to make finals.
"That's our first priority, get off to a good start, gel and hopefully our young girls can really play well and develop.
"Once we get to finals, we can do anything.''
However, the 2018 team will again be led by seasoned performer captain Bree Farley, who has a terrific record working with youthful talent.
Farley's experience will be supported by American import Amanda "AJ'' Johnson and another international recruit Gintare Mazionyte.
Johnson made her presence felt, instantly stepping up as the Force team added an extra training session on Wednesday afternoon.
Mazionyte is due in Ipswich on May 8 having played a European season in the Sweden Pro League.
"The Force starting group is going to be very strong,'' George said.
"When Gintare arrives, it's going to be exciting and with five players the way they can shoot the boards, it will be very good.''
The core of the Force women's squad has been training since the end of January.
"Last year we didn't get the two imports until about round six or seven and now we've got AJ in early who has fit in really well,'' George said.
"We were one (win) and five (losses) to start but we won nine in a row once we got the imports in so they make a big difference.''
The Force women had an additional session on Wednesday afternoon to get some shots up and help the American recruit settle in.
Preparing for his sixth season as Force head coach, George will be assisted by his wife Marney and another Force stalwart Dwight Hicks.
Marney was a long-serving captain before retiring at the end of last season.
Today's women's game starts at 5pm at Llewellyn Stadium in Stafford St, Booval.