The Canberra Capitals will have to chase a historic WNBL three-peat without the help of international stars as the league prepares to ban imports from playing the 2020-21 season.
The delayed free agency period will begin on Thursday afternoon, with clubs expected to scramble to sign Australia's top talent for what will be a new-look competition at the end of the year.
The Capitals have made moves to secure the bulk of their squad before players hit the open market, with coach Paul Goriss to unveil five more re-signings to join Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo.
But the club's mission to win three titles in a row will be made more difficult, with the WNBL's new import rules meaning French guard Olivia Epoupa won't be eligible to return next season.
Grand final most valuable player Epoupa and season most valuable player Kia Nurse will leave massive holes in Canberra's roster, but all teams will be hit with the same pressures as the attention turns to Australian talent as part of coronavirus changes.
The Capitals have agreed to deals with Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Alex Delaney, Gemma Potter and Abby Cubillo to give Goriss the core of his squad.
The free-agency period will start at 1pm, with Goriss to scour the country for a gun point guard and a sharpshooter to replace Canadian Nurse.
Veteran Kelly Wilson could be a recruitment target to replace Epoupa given she helped Canberra win the 2018-19 title before returning to Bendigo. Lauren Mansfield, Sami Whitcomb and Lauren Nicholson are some of the other guards on the free agents list, while Liz Cambage could also return to the competition.
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All clubs will be racing to secure Australian Opals talent to bolster their sides, as well as waiting to see which Australians will return from overseas leagues.
The Capitals will build their squad around co-captains Griffin and Tolo, who both signed new deals this week, while Froling and Rocci are set for increased roles when the season begins in November.
"I guess you can compare it to my first season [in Canberra]. The pieces fell [in place]. We've got some huge shoes we need to fill ... but I'm hoping what will bring people to Canberra is wanting to be here," Griffin said.
"We don't want to promise anything that we can't deliver on, like a championship, but if you want to improve as a basketball player, we have a track record of people being better when they finish here.
"Being part of a competitive team that strives to be the best they can and win a championship, those are the things we have to offer. Hopefully, once free agency does come, people want to join in that."
Epoupa was a revelation in her first season in Canberra, dominating at both ends of the floor despite her diminutive stature. Goriss had been speaking to her about a return, but the WNBL says imports will not be allowed next season to help teams save money.
The start of the season has been moved to November and teams are expecting to play the first part of the competition in front of empty stands.
"With COVID-19 set to impact the finances of the league and clubs for next season, Basketball Australia and the WNBL Commission have made a number of determinations to best support the future of the league and assist the national team achieve its goal of claiming gold at the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 World Cup," league boss Lauren Jackson said.
"One of those decisions was to focus on showcasing the depth of local talent in 2020-21, with [import] restricted players ineligible to be signed by WNBL clubs for the upcoming season."
Griffin, who is no longer considered an import after becoming an Australian citizen, said: "It's a really exciting time for young Australian talent. If was a young 18-year-old I'd be thinking I have a chance to put a stamp on the league because two or one spots more on teams up for grabs.
"Maybe there are some cusp players that have missed out [in previous years]. It is a challenge and I think teams will be far more shallow than they were before, it's also a great opportunity for Aussie talent and I hope it's looked at that way."