The Evening Game

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The homecoming: Marianna Tolo on her WNBL return to the UC Capitals

The homecoming: Marianna Tolo on her WNBL return to the UC Capitals

With all-star five calibre stars in Leilani Mitchell and Kelsey Griffin already locked in, the University of Canberra Capitals have made an aggressive change of direction in the off-season. Their latest signing is one of the city’s favourite daughters, Marianna Tolo, returning after a year in Turkey.

Her stint with Abdullah Gül Üniversitesi was cut short by a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, but Tolo says it is good to be back anyway.

“It’s definitely nice to be home. You get to enjoy the little things you miss when you’re overseas.”

With the injury having occurred almost two months ago, Tolo has already progressed back into light track work and jumping and hopes to be running again in a month.

 Tolo reunites with coach Paul Goriss. "I’m happy to play for him again," she says. "He’ll do everything to put the best team forward." Photo: University of Canberra.

Tolo reunites with coach Paul Goriss. "I’m happy to play for him again," she says. "He’ll do everything to put the best team forward." Photo: University of Canberra.

Having previously suffered the same injury in 2015, she says the recovery process is slightly smoother this time.

“I feel like I’ve got a better range of movement and I’m stronger.

“I’m also not as fearful because I’ve been through it before. I know what I can and can’t push, I know what to expect.”

A ruptured ACL brings with it one of the most gruelling rehabilitation processes of any sports injury, but Tolo is upbeat and enjoying  the familiar environment and high-level rehabilitation  facilities available in Canberra.

“I would prefer to (rehab) at the AIS over anywhere else in the world.

“I think we have the best facilities and the best staff and everything you need to help you through that process. I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity to do that.”

The University of Canberra Capitals have several more roster sports to fill, but there is already the core of a title contender in place and the tantalising possibility of a Mitchell/Tolo pick and roll being a staple of their offence.

The addition of Kelsey Griffin alongside Tolo in the frontcourt should also significantly bolster the team’s rebounding and ability to get second chance points, where they ranked only seventh and sixth respectively last year.

Tolo’s return also instantly improves the group’s ability to protect the rim. One of the WNBL’s elite shot blockers, she also holds the league record with a ludicrous 13 blocks in a single game.

Her impact off the court, however, may be as valuable her two-way contributions on it; in a previous interview with this site coach Paul Goriss described her as “irreplaceable” and “just amazing with the playing group.”

Her presence at training will likely be particularly beneficial for young bigs Lauren Scherf and Keely Froling, both aged 22 and already double-double beasts at SEABL level.

Tolo says she is more than happy to play mentor. “I’m a bit older now, and with that comes a bit of responsibility to try to help as many people as you can.

“I’ll be looking to help them get the most out of their experience and get a little bit better every day. I will try to push them at training and I’m sure they will push me as well.”

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Admitting to some pangs of jealousy while keeping an eye on the WNBL from Europe last season, Tolo says the league is on an upwards trajectory with its return to television.

“I feel like more people were engaged and definitely more people were talking about it.

“I’m glad that we’re making progress and I look forward to more changes we can make and ways we can step forward even further.”

Her return may to the court may not be until late in the year, but Tolo is already looking past that and eyeing a return to the post-season for the UC Capitals.

“Hopefully, we’ll get back on track during this season and bring a championship back to Canberra.

“I would love to have that experience again, it’s been a long time.”

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