Caps, AIS to catch Graf's eye
The AIS has always viewed matches against Canberra as a golden chance to impress Capitals and Australian Opals coach Carrie Graf.
But the Capitals will be doing some auditioning of their own at Albury tonight as they attempt to recover from a slow start to the season.
Canberra's sluggish 2-7 start means fringe players will be pressing hard to prove they deserve more minutes against the stronger sides.
Traditionally Canberra has raced to a big early lead against the youngsters, before giving their bench players extended court time.
The likes of Alice Coddington, Brigitte Ardossi and Hannah Bowley are looking to take full advantage.
Work commitments mean forward Natalie Porter won't play for Canberra again until the new year, handing Bowley and Ardossi a golden opportunity.
Solid in last week's win over West Coast, Coddington will tonight continue her quest to make the back-up point guard spot her own.
''People have to earn court time and that comes down to training and what you do in the game,'' Graf said.
''We'll see who can step up to the plate and guarantee themselves minutes, and we'll also have some positional changes with our roster.''
Languishing in eighth place, the Capitals will use the match to improve their processes.
They're also aware any complacency could be fatal.
''We never want to put ourselves in a hole that's hard to get out of, but that's what we've done,'' Graf said.
''We have to be realistic about where we are and why we're there, take responsibility for the parts that have been unproductive or unsuccessful and take it on like a challenge.''
Graf has identified Olivia Thompson and Sara Blicavs as the AIS players the Capitals must stop to secure back-to-back victories for the first time this year.
Guard or forward Blicavs, the daughter of former Olympian Andris, is averaging over 10 points, two assists and four rebounds a game.
Athletic forward Thompson (10.8 points, seven rebounds, 1.1 assists) has also caught Graf's eye.
''Both [Blicavs and Thompson] have scored heavily in most of their contests and we have to make sure we lock those two down,'' Graf said.
''They've still got a lot of basketball game knowledge to learn, but their athleticism is what makes them stand out at the moment.
''The AIS recruiting window is coming up in the next month and we'll talk to a lot of those athletes.''
Canberra has been boosted by the return of key player Michelle Cosier to the main training group this week.
The guard is yet to play this season after battling osteitis pubis, but is on track to return for the second half of the campaign.
''She's on limited practice right now, but we'll build her up ... and the plan is that post-Christmas she'll be ready to roll,'' Graf said.
''We've got to make sure we manage her for now and for the future.
''We've hit the skids a bit right now, but we can't suddenly have everything fall in a heap because we're in panic mode about one season.''