By Nick Creely
The WNBL’s newest outfit, Southside Flyers, etched its way into the history books with a brilliant opening round win against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday night.
In front of a big crowd, the Flyers – formally known as the Dandenong Rangers since 1992 but rebranded this year in order to create a team with the support of different regions of the south east – took the points in a promising performance under new coach Cheryl Chambers, winning 81-72.\
While there were moments where the Flyers appeared scratchy after battling to get the full squad together on the eve of the season, the newest franchise largely played some excellent basketball, thrilling the crowd with some fast and daring play.
Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers told the WNBL website that the night is one that will be etched into the memory for a long time.
“There was a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves, a lot of fun, everyone enjoyed it,” she explained.
“We weren’t perfect and there’s a lot of work to do but everyone had a great experience, we were sort of relieved to get the win and now we can move forward and fix a few things.
“The crowd and atmosphere were fantastic. At one stage, the girls said to me ‘we can’t hear what you’re saying’ and that’s a great problem to have.
“The smiles on the kids’ faces and seeing them all on court getting photos and autographs after the game was fantastic, (it was) an awesome atmosphere.”
There was plenty of winners across the court for the Flyers, with Opals and WNBA star point guard Leilani Mitchell absolutely brilliant with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, skipper Jenna O’Hea led from the front with 19 points and eight rebounds, while the dynamic Sara Blicavs also had some great moments with 13 points.
Despite missing large chunks of the pre-season due to injury, Chambers was full of praise for Mitchell and O’Hea for their leadership and ability to stand up in the key moments.
“They were super, weren’t they?” Chambers said.
“It does give us some self-belief because on paper you’re talking about a concept before you walk out on the court and I think to get our two experienced players off to a really good start will only help drag everyone else along.”
The Flyers have an action-packed schedule this week, taking on Perth Lynx on Thursday night at home, before heading to Sydney to take on the Flames on Saturday night, with the side looking to open the season with a 3-0 record.