19 Teams in 19 Days – Edmonton WAM!

Another season is underway and as teams hit the ice in their quest for the 2011-2012 NRL Championship title, we’re taking a closer look at each team in the league. The new series is called 19 Teams in 19 Days and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussion on Twitter by following www.twitter.com/nrllnr or by sending us an email at NRLchatter@nationalringetteleague.ca

Edmonton WAM!

Last season finish:
Regular season – 3rd place Western Conference
NRL Championship – 1st place

Head coach: Terry Stone
Two questions with coach Stone:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
Winning gold last year at the NRL Championships with a team ranked 8th in the league going in was simpling amazing. I was extremely proud to be a part of a team that was able to repeat as gold medalist (Saskatoon in 2010) with eight rookies replacing the eight retiring veterans. The sense of accomplishment that our team felt was unbelievable. While it would be difficult to duplicate that level of achievement felt by our team – maybe three in a row would do it.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
Our team is pretty much the same as last year – we lost two veteran players that will be difficult to replace, but seven of our rookies now have a year of experience in the NRL including the Championships. If we can do well in the Western Conference, keep our emotions in check and play as a team we should do well at nationals.

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
The days of the WAM! as the veteran team that will kill you with experience are gone. Sure, this team is the defending national champion and they can kill you in lots of ways, but this is the 10th oldest team in the league – not even in the top five. There is more youth going for the WAM than they get credit for.

The question to be answered:
Who is going to score? Team Canada’s MVP at the World Championships and the WAM!’s leading scorer, Jenn Hartley is playing her trade in Finland this season leaving a gaping hole in the offensive side. Jillian Basterash notched six points in eight games at the NRL Championship last season and coming off of both that and a silver medal performance at the Canada Winter Games, she may be ready to step up offensively.

What happened in the off-season:
Jenn Hartley went to Finland. The NRL has gained a potential guest writer for the Ten Things I Think I Think but the WAM! has lost a vital leader and scorer. There is a big hole to be filled, but in recent years this team has filled the holes left by national teamers Carly Ross, Alexis Snowdon, Megan Todd, among others. They are getting good at it.

The (hidden) gem:
Robyn Kerr is a 5th year defender who contributes offensively, but is not dominant offensively. What she does bring to the defensive corps for the WAM is some experience. At a very young 22 years of age, Kerr is, nonetheless, the oldest player on this defence and she will be called on to take a big leadership role this season.

Reason for optimism:
Defending national champions know they can win the national championship.

Reason for concern:
Are we harping on this Hartley thing? This team still has a lot of very good players – she was central to this team last year, but she was not their only player. However, no team in this league can lose a player of Hartley’s stature and not be concerned.