Samantha Norwood at Canberra Capitals training at the Canberra Basketball Centre. Photo: Jay Cronan
Lauren Jackson's return has hogged the headlines but the Canberra Capitals believe an off-court signing could prove just as crucial as they look to make a return to the WNBL finals.
While Jackson will arrive in Canberra today amid much fanfare, new assistant coach David Herbert has gone quietly about his business.
Former Capitals deputy Chris Lucas left Canberra to join Townsville as head coach last season, while assistant coach Sandy Tomley spent most of the campaign on maternity leave.
It meant Capitals coach Carrie Graf fielded an inexperienced support staff while also juggling her Olympic duties with the Australian Opals. Herbert has eight years as a WNBL head coach under his belt, the last two at West Coast after six seasons at Townsville.
''With Sandy out of the mix and Chris Lucas's departure to Townsville, we had two coaches new at this level who weren't available all the time [Brendan Parnell and Markus Klusemann],'' Graf said.
''Having Herby on board, he knows the league and will do the bulk of the [opposition] scouting, while Sandy will be at all home games and will do a chunk of our individual sessions.
''Certainly having that stability there is another plus for us.''
Last week's season-opening win in Sydney silenced critics who believed Canberra cannot win without Jackson. The Capitals are again expected to be without the star centre for this weekend's Queensland double-header against Townsville and Logan.
They are set to wrap Jackson in cotton wool, given she is battling injuries after an arduous recent schedule. Jackson arrived in Australia this week after completing her commitments with Seattle Storm in the US and two matches after another long flight to Queensland could be too much to ask.
Graf may have her own point to prove after the Lucas-led Fire upstaged the Capitals 72-60 in Canberra and 105-94 in the far north last season.
Canberra will be buoyed by the strong early form of former Waves forward Samantha Norwood, who contributed 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in her Capitals debut against Sydney.
''We knew when we signed Lauren it was a bit of an unknown how deep Seattle would go into the [WNBA] playoffs, so we knew we needed more depth in the post,'' Graf said.
''Winning on the road is going to be huge this year, so you have to find a way to win ugly early on in other people's gyms.''
Friday: Townsville Fire v Canberra Capitals, at Townsville RSL Stadium, 8pm.
Saturday: Logan Thunder v Canberra Capitals, at Logan Metro, 9.30pm.