Aimie Clydesdale’s progression from Dandenong Rangers development player to team co-captain and 100 plus WNBL games

In late November 2016 Jayco Dandenong Rangers point guard Aimie Clydesdale played her 100th WNBL game in a 13 point win against the Adelaide Lightning at Dandenong Stadium. Aimie grew up in Endeavour Hills and played her junior basketball at Dandenong before joining the Jayco Rangers WNBL team as a development player at 17 years of age for the 2010/11 season. Clydesdale has continued to play for Dandenong in all six subsequent WNBL seasons with a few of her greatest strengths being her speed, ability to drive to the basket and her leadership. On the eve of the 2015/16 season Clydesdale was voted in by her team-mate’s as the Jayco Rangers co-captain along with Steph Cumming who also played her junior basketball at Dandenong. Aimie is the only player to represent the Dandenong Rangers in all seven WNBL seasons from 2010/11 to 2016/17 and on Saturday November 26 became a rare player to play her first 100 WNBL games with the same club and progress from development player at the time of her debut to team co-captain for her first major games milestone.  

It is common for players to spend a couple of seasons playing for a WNBL team before leaving to join a rival WNBL club or play in an overseas league, and highlighting just how uncommon it is for a player to represent the same club for seven consecutive seasons Aimie is one of only five players to have played for the same WNBL club in each season from 2010/11 to 2016/17 along with the University of Canberra Capitals’ Carly Wilson and Bendigo Spirit trio Gabe Richards, Jane Chalmers and Andrea Wilson. Having turned 23 years of age in the month before the 2016/17 WNBL season commenced Clydesdale is considerably younger than the other four players that have achieved this feat – C Wilson (34), Chalmers (33), Richards (32) and A Wilson (31). 

From the 2010/11 WNBL season onwards Clydesdale hasn’t been playing one season every year for the Dandenong Rangers, she has been playing two, also representing Dandenong in the South East Australian Basketball League each winter. Whilst Clydesdale has been representing the Dandenong Rangers in both the WNBL and SEABL and has played as a point guard in both leagues the role she has performed for each team has been vastly different until the past couple of seasons when she has taken on more responsibility in the WNBL. In each of Aimie’s first four WNBL seasons she averaged less than 10 minutes per game but got to train alongside and learn from one of the best point guards in the league with the Dandenong Rangers starting point guard being Kathleen MacLeod from 2010/11 to 2012/13 and Leilani Mitchell in 2013/14, in all four seasons during this period the Jayco Rangers starting point guard was selected in the WNBL All-Star five which explains why Aimie continued to play limited minutes despite developing her game. Whilst Clydesdale played limited minutes in the WNBL from 2010/11 to 2013/14 her role at SEABL level increased significantly during the same period and in 2013 Clydesdale played 27 games in the SEABL for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 10.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

After having her son Jaxson, MacLeod returned to the Dandenong Rangers as the team’s starting point guard for the 2014/15 season. When a knee injury in January 2015 forced MacLeod to the sidelines for several games Clydesdale was brought in to the Jayco Rangers starting line-up alongside two stars of international basketball, Australian Opals all-time great Penny Taylor and American  Cappie Pondexter, along with experienced starters Alice Kunek and Annalise Pickrel. Aimie commented on her surprise elevation to the starting line-up “It was kind of announced to the team that Kathleen would be out for three weeks or so, but I didn’t instantly expect the starting role because Cappie can play the point guard too. Then I had a chat with (Rangers Coach) Mark Wright and he was confident I could do it – after that I thought it would be a good opportunity to play some extra time.”1 Clydesdale relished the opportunity to play more court-time and performed well during her short stint as starting point guard before MacLeod resumed the role late in the season.

For the 2015/16 season Aimie took on far greater responsibility with the Jayco Rangers, at just 22 years of age being named the team’s co-captain along with Cumming. In her first season as the Jayco Rangers co-captain Aimie was expected to be the team’s starting point guard, however things did not go to plan as she suffered a knee injury early in the opening game of the season against Canberra. Clydesdale required a minor operation to repair meniscus damage in her knee and ended up playing less than 15 minutes court-time in total during the first two months of the season. Upon her return to the Rangers line-up on 12 December 2015 Clydesdale played for the remainder of the 2015/16 season as back-up point guard behind long-time Dandenong Rangers SEABL team-mate Amelia Todhunter. Aimie averaged 18.8 minutes per game with her numbers in 2015/16 remaining similar to the ones she posted in 2014/15.

Throughout her SEABL career Aimie has been part of a Dandenong Rangers team that is widely regarded as the greatest women’s SEABL team of all-time. Clydesdale has played in four SEABL championships with the Rangers – 2011, 2012, 2015 & 2016, however Dandenong’s dominance started before this with the club also winning the 2010 title, meaning that from 2010 to 2016 the Rangers won an unprecedented five SEABL championships in seven seasons. Aimie had a career best SEABL season in 2016, averaging 15.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game to earn selection in the All-SEABL team and was also captain of the Championship winning Rangers.

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During the 2016/17 WNBL season Clydesdale has been injury-free, is easily having the best season of her career and has established herself as the Dandenong Rangers starting point guard, playing all 15 games up to the Christmas break, averaging 9.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 29.5 minutes per game, setting new WNBL career-highs in all four categories. In 2016/17 Aimie ranks 26th in the WNBL for points per game, 19th for assists and equal 21st for total steals. Aimie has already set a new career-high with 15 three pointers made this season to rank equal second at Dandenong with Sara Blicavs & Ally Mallott in this category, behind Steph Cumming with 31. Clydesdale has impressed in several games this season, most notably in the thrilling Round 4 two point victory against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre, having a game-high four assists and scoring 15 points, ranked second for the Rangers behind Blicavs with 28.

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In May 2016 Aimie re-signed with the Jayco Rangers for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 WNBL seasons commenting, “I’m really excited to be coming back to play with Dandenong, especially with it looking like we’ll be keeping together the core group. I missed half the season last year with injury, so I’m really looking forward to being ready to go and hopefully having a really successful year with the girls!”2 At the conclusion of Round 11 the Rangers are on top of the WNBL ladder with a record of 11 wins and four losses – to be ideally placed to extend their sequence of consecutive WNBL finals series to seven, with the club winning their third WNBL Championship in 2011/12 against Bulleen in Aimie’s 11th WNBL game.

Aimie was born in Noble Park on 21 September 1993. In an interview with Medibank in June 2016 Aimie commented on how she started playing basketball, saying “Growing up, both my brothers played basketball, so I always looked up to them and played with them in the backyard. Then I started on a school team. I was lucky enough to be around Dandenong so since then I’ve gone through their whole program from domestic to rep to SEABL to WNBL, so I’ve been really lucky.”3

As a youngster Aimie was in the stands at Dandenong Stadium watching the Jayco Rangers win back to back WNBL titles in 2003/04 and 2004/05, the first two WNBL championships in the team’s history. Aimie idolised several of these players and although she didn’t know it at the time would later go on to play alongside a couple of these players on senior Rangers teams at SEABL and WNBL level. The Jayco Rangers MVP in three consecutive seasons from 2003/04 to 2005/06 was Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton), in all three seasons the Rangers made the Grand Final and in two of the three seasons Kennedy was named in the WNBL All-Star five. Other members of the Rangers Championship winning teams included Emily McInerney, Carly Wilson, Jess Bibby, Alison Downie, Caitlin Ryan, and Sam Richards.

Aimie’s performances for junior Dandenong Rangers teams earnt her selection on the Victorian team for the under 14 National Championships in 2005 & 2006. Aimie was a member of the Victoria Metro team that won a gold medal at the 2008 under 16 National Championships. Five Dandenong Rangers players made the 10 player team including current WNBL team-mate Rosie Fadljevic and Carley Mijovic who is currently playing for the Perth Lynx in the WNBL and played one season alongside Clydesdale in the WNBL with the Jayco Rangers in 2012/13. Another member of the 2012/13 Rangers roster as well as the current Rangers roster Sara Blicavs was also a member of the Vic Metro under 16 Gold Medal team in 2008, having been selected from her junior association – Melbourne.

In July 2010 Aimie represented Australia at the under 17 World Championships held in Rodez and Toulouse France, Australia finished seventh. Clydesdale played all eight of Australia’s games and averaged 3.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 26.4 minutes per game. Clydesdale ranked fourth for Australia for assists and steals, and second for blocked shots.

Aimie made her WNBL debut at 17 years of age for the Dandenong Rangers during the 2010/11 season. The Dandenong Rangers starting five after the Christmas break consisted of Kathleen MacLeod, Steph Cumming, Jess Foley, Tracey Gahan and Abby Bishop. Aimie was a development player and played a total of 11 minutes across five games. Dandenong finished fourth on the ladder with 12 wins and 10 losses, behind Bulleen – 19 wins, Canberra – 18 wins and Bendigo – 15 wins. The Jayco Rangers hosted Logan in an elimination final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium but were defeated 83-73.

Aimie was part of the Victorian team that won a gold medal in the 2011 under 20 National Championships, her team-mates included current Rangers Sara Blicavs and Rosie Fadljevic. Strong performances for Victoria earned Aimie a spot on Australia’s 2011 under 19 World Championships team. Aimie played all eight games for Australia at the under 19 World Championships in Chile, averaging 1.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 15 minutes per game.  Australia lost the bronze medal game to Brazil by three points 67-70 and finished the tournament in fourth place.

Although the Rangers had made the finals in 2010/11 player turnover was high in the off-season with only two starters – MacLeod and Cumming returning for the 2011/12 season. Clydesdale was one of four non-starters along with Alison Downie, Sam Woosnam and Hope Terdich to remain with the Jayco Rangers for the 2011/12 season. The three new starters in 2011/12 were recruits Krista Phillips – an import from Canada, and Jenna O’Hea – recruited from WNBL rivals the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers, and long-term Ranger Alison Downie who played a more prominent role for Dandenong in 2011/12 after averaging just 12.7 minutes per game in 2010/11. Forward, Tegan Cunningham joined Dandenong from Adelaide and played an important role as the sixth-man during 2011/12.

Aimie continued as a development player in 2011/12 and was able to learn from two players that were later selected in the Australian Opals 2012 Olympic Games team, MacLeod and guard/forward Jenna O’Hea. With six rounds remaining in the season the Rangers were a middle of the road team personified with a record of eight wins and eight losses and looked very unlikely to make the WNBL finals. However, for the remainder of the season the Jayco Rangers went on one of the most amazing winning streaks in WNBL history with the team gelling brilliantly in the last third of the season. Dandenong won their last six regular season games, having an average winning margin of 31 points during this time. The Jayco Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder with 14 wins and eight losses, four games behind minor premiers, Adelaide Lightning and one win behind the second placed Bulleen Boomers. Townsville and Sydney finished in fourth and fifth place respectively with records of 13 wins and nine losses to complete the final five with Bendigo and Logan both finishing one win behind on 12 wins.

In a home semi-final Dandenong trailed Townsville 65 to 58 with just over seven minutes remaining, however Dandenong dominated from that point on to go on a 19-1 run and won 77 points to 66. Adelaide hosted Dandenong in the preliminary final and led by 13 points a minute into the third quarter, however as they had done so frequently in the concluding stages of the season the Rangers got on a role and overpowered their opponent, sixth-man and former Adelaide player Cunningham was critical in the turn around with the Jayco Rangers winning 91 points to 78.

Seven years after watching the Rangers win their second WNBL title in 2004/05 Clydesdale was part of the 12 player Dandenong team that attempted to win the club’s third championship in 2011/12. The 2011/12 WNBL Grand Final at the State Netball & Hockey Centre (also known as the Cage) between the Bulleen Boomers and the Dandenong Rangers was the first all-Victorian Grand Final since 1987. The Rangers had a long losing streak against Bullen including losing all three games during 2011/12 by five points, six points in overtime and 10 points. The Bulleen Boomers had a great start to lead 11 points to four, three and a half minutes into the opening quarter, however the Jayco Rangers scored the next 12 points, going on a 30 points to six run to lead by 17 points, 34 to 17 with six and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Whilst Bulleen reduced the lead to a low single figure margin for several minutes early in the third quarter Dandenong were able to respond, retaining their composure to extend their lead. Holding an unassailable lead in the Grand Final the Rangers bench players including 18 year-old Aimie were substituted in during the dying minutes and remained on the court until the final buzzer with Aimie being the last Rangers player to handle the ball during the game. Dandenong recorded a convincing 24 point victory, 94 points to 70 to win the club’s third WNBL Championship, with all three titles being won in a span of nine seasons. Kathleen MacLeod scored 22 points and made nine assists to win the Grand Final MVP whilst Jenna O’Hea scored 20 points and took seven rebounds and Steph Cumming scored 19 points. During 2011/12 Aimie ranked 12th at Dandenong for both games and minutes played with six and 36 respectively.

On 27 June 2012 Aimie was presented with a “Premiers 2012 VCE Award for outstanding achievement in the subject area of VET Community Services.” Aimie completed her VCE at Hallam Senior College in 2011 and was a dedicated and high achieving student. In 2015 Aimie started a double degree at Monash University, comprised of a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education.

The Jayco Rangers retained just over half of their Championship winning roster for the 2012/13 WNBL season, with the starting five along with Clydesdale and sixth man Cunningham all returning. Dandenong recruited two teenagers from the AIS, Sara Blicavs and Carly Mijovic who at that stage were already being touted as potential future Opals. After playing a total of only 11 games in her first two seasons Aimie almost tripled her games tally during the 2012/13 season, playing 21 of a possible 26 games. During the season the Rangers recruited American import Monica Wright which increased their depth even further. The Jayco Rangers got off to a much better start in 2012/13 than 2011/12 and until late in the season they had the measure of every rival club in the WNBL other than the Bendigo Spirit, winning 16 of their first 19 games of the season, with all three losses being to Bendigo by in order 12, two and seven points. Dandenong lost two late season games to Adelaide to finish the regular season in second spot on the ladder with 19 wins and five losses, two games behind minor premiers Bendigo Spirit, one game ahead of third placed Adelaide and six games ahead of the Townsville Fire who completed the top four. Dandenong lost the major semi-final on the road to Bendigo 78 points to 71 and were upset by Townsville in the preliminary final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, being defeated 78 points to 64. During 2012/13 Aimie ranked 10th at Dandenong for games and minutes played. Of the players that made at least 10 field goals for the Rangers in 2012/13 Aimie had the second highest field goal percentage, making 50% of her shots comprised of 18 made from 36 attempts. Kathleen MacLeod and Jenna O’Hea were both named in the WNBL All-Star five, between them contributing 30.7 points and 12.1 assists per game and ranking second and third in the league for assists respectively behind Kristi Harrower.

Of the 10 players that played at least 100 minutes for the Jayco Rangers during 2012/13 Aimie was one of only three that returned in 2013/14 along with Jenna O’Hea and Alison Downie. Kathleen MacLeod missed the WNBL season to have her son Jaxson, import Krista Phillips didn’t play in the WNBL, and several players joined rival WNBL clubs, Cumming – Townsville Fire, Cunningham – Logan Thunder, Blicavs – Bendigo Spirit and Mijovic – Canberra Capitals. The key Dandenong signings in 2013/14 were Alice Kunek from the Melbourne Boomers, American imports Natalie Novosel and Kayla Pederson, along with point guard Leilani Mitchell who has both American and American citizenship. After playing alongside MacLeod for the first three seasons of her WNBL career Clydesdale was able to train alongside and learn from another elite point guard in Mitchell. Dandenong maintained their status as one of the best teams in the WNBL during the regular season, having 16 wins and eight losses to finish second, six games behind minor premiers Bendigo and level with third placed Townsville Fire. Dandenong lost both their finals, a semi final on the road against Bendigo 62-71 and a home preliminary final to Townsville 71-74. During the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons Aimie’s numbers were similar, across these two seasons she played a total of 40 games, averaging 2.5 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 7.8 minutes per game.

Only one starter from 2013/14 returned for the Jayco Rangers, forward Alice Kunek, whilst Kathleen Macleod returned to be the starting point guard and Tegan Cunningham also re-joined the Rangers. Serious injuries to two of the Jayco Rangers off-season signings – Australian Opals centre Liz Cambage and American import Monica Wright resulted in both players being ruled out for the season and forced the team to change their strategy. Three-time All WNBA first team member Cappie Pondexter joined the Rangers, with fellow American Annalise Pickrel filling the second import position. Early in the 2014/15 season the Jayco Rangers starting line-up was MacLeod, Pondexter, Cunnigham, Kunek and Pickrel. Clydesdale and 18 year-old centre Lauren Scherf completed the core seven player rotation and whilst the Rangers undoubtedly had a talented roster it appeared that they needed at least one more experienced player in their core rotation to increase their depth. After Liz Cambage injured her achillies just before the 2014 World Championships the Jayco Rangers had been in discussions to recruit this experienced player but were unable to sign anyone before the WNBL season commenced.

Dandenong started the season slowly to be last on the ladder with one win and four losses but were boosted by signing an experienced player who was their clear-cut number one target, one of Australia’s greatest basketball players of all-time – Penny Taylor. It had been 12 and a half years since Taylor had played in the WNBL, having previously played with the Dandenong Rangers in 2001/02 when she won her second successive WNBL MVP award. In between her WNBL stints with the Jayco Rangers Taylor had well and truly established herself as a superstar of international basketball winning three WNBA championships with the Phoenix Mercury including two alongside Pondexter in 2007 & 2009, and had won five medals at major Championships with the Australian Opals including a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships when Penny was named tournament MVP. With Taylor’s recruitment Cunningham was moved from the starting line-up to the sixth-man role and the Rangers had a more balanced and experienced roster. 

Dandenong turned their season around and steadily climbed up the ladder. Although Aimie was playing on a team with a very experienced top six players in the rotation her court-time significantly increased on previous seasons. Playing alongside Pondexter and Taylor was great for the development and confidence of several younger Rangers players including Aimie who prospered when called into the Rangers starting line-up late in the season due to MacLeod’s knee injury. As starting point guard against Adelaide on 23 January 2015 Clydesdale thrived with the additional court-time, scoring 13 points whilst also handling the ball superbly to have seven assists and no turnovers. Clydesdale was the subject of the WNBL Round 16 feature and commented “The last few weeks have been a good opportunity for me to play more, it was an unfortunate circumstance with Kath going down, for the team and her personally, she was in really good form so I guess I just had to grab the opportunity and have just been trying to bring what I can to the team. I was definitely nervous that first game being in the starting five, it was a big adjustment going from playing so little to playing so much, but I have got players around me who actually helped me through it. If I am stuck for a play I have always got someone to give me advise. Cappie’s actually been really good with letting me know how I am going or what I should be doing better.” On MacLeod’s return to the Dandenong starting line-up Aimie said “I am not too sure exactly how far off she is but I think she is close. She will definitely be back in the starting five and I am ready to be back backing her up, that’s what I need to do for the team. It will probably take a little bit of load off her though, knowing that I can do it. I guess just being able to play more, it is what everybody wants and to get that opportunity, it has been really good.”

As expected MacLeod returned to the starting line-up late in the regular season, however Aimie played significantly more court-time than she had been before MacLeod’s knee injury. Dandenong finished the 2014/15 regular season in third position with a record of 12 wins and 10 losses and hosted a sudden death semi final against Sydney at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. Dandenong looked to be in control, leading by 13 points at half-time. Early in the third quarter when going for a lay-up Taylor injured her left ankle when she stepped on Sydney centre Paris Johnson’s foot. Taylor had to be assisted from the court and was unable to take any further part in the game. With Taylor sidelined momentum shifted and Sydney overran Dandenong in the second half to win by nine points, 89 to 80.

Clydesdale played all 23 games for the Jayco Rangers in 2014/15, averaging 4.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 20 minutes per game. Clydesdale commented on playing alongside Pondexter and Taylor in an interview with Roy Ward “Getting Cappie and Penny has been awesome. They contribute a hell of a lot for the team. I feel pretty lucky to be out there with them – it’s a once in a life-time experience to have those two together and a real privilege.” During the interview Clydesdale went on to say “They have been very good for me personally. Just them taking notice of you, having someone of their calibre take interest in what you do and genuinely want you to do better is special.”4

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Clydesdale represented Australia at the World University games in July 2015, playing all seven games and averaging 8.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In an interview with Basketball Australia in July 2015 Aimie commented “I just came back from the World Uni games in South Korea, it was actually a bit different for me, I came in always being a point guard for every team I’ve ever played for and I actually played the two man that whole tournament so I got to know myself more as a player, the different things that I can do and be a bit more versatile, it was good for my experience and really build on it for WNBL.” On the Dandenong Rangers, role models and players she has learnt from Aimie commented “They have done a lot for me at Dandenong and I really appreciate it, loyalty is a big factor for me. My mum always wanted me to play netball, she was a netballer so I think she is a little disappointed, but in terms of role models and why I want to do well and play well is definitely for mum and dad. The people I have got to play with or under like Kath and Leilani, it’s helped my development a lot, I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t a part of that.”  

Aimie represented Australia’s senior women’s team, the Opals in a three game series against Japan in July 2015. Game one of the series was on her home court, Dandenong Stadium where she has played hundreds of games, at just 21 years of age Aimie got to swap the green and gold of the Dandenong Rangers for the green and gold of the Australian Opals.

In March 2015 long-time Dandenong Rangers SEABL coach Larissa Anderson was appointed the Jayco Rangers WNBL head coach for 2015/16. Anderson played 275 WNBL games between 1995 and 2008, starting and finishing her career with the Dandenong Rangers but spending most of her WNBL career playing for the Bulleen Boomers. At the time of her appointment as the Rangers WNBL coach Anderson had coached Dandenong to three SEABL championships, won in consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2012 with Clydesdale playing in the latter two championships, and had been named the SEABL coach of the year three times – 2004, 2010 and 2011. Shortly after Larissa’s appointment she stated an intention to recruit players that had represented the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL previously, which was followed through on with the club recruiting five former Rangers players in Steph Cumming, Sara Blicavs, Jacinta Kennedy, Amelia Todhunter and Alison Downie. Excluding development players the only player Dandenong recruited for the 2015/16 season that hadn’t played WNBL basketball for the club previously was centre Alex Bunton. Anderson had coached six members of Dandenong’s 2015/16 WNBL roster in the SEABL during 2015 with the Rangers winning their fourth championship in six seasons, and had also coached Cumming and Scherf in the SEABL during previous seasons. Although Dandenong had made the WNBL finals in all five seasons from 2010/11 to 2014/15 the external expectations on the eve of the season were considerably lower with very few experts tipping the Dandenong Rangers to make the finals in 2015/16.

The Jayco Rangers had a vastly different roster in 2015/16, with only one starter – Annalise Pickrel returning from the 2014/15 season. Clydesdale was named Jayco Dandenong Rangers co-captain for the 2015/16 WNBL season along with another player whose junior association was Dandenong – shooting guard Stephanie Cumming. Whilst selecting a player in Clydesdale who hadn’t established herself as a regular starter and had only just turned 22 years of age as co-captain might have seemed a surprising selection externally it was a clear-cut one for the Rangers. Cumming and Clydesdale who both grew up in Endeavour Hills were voted into the role of co-captain by their team-mates, Dandenong head-coach Larissa Anderson commented “That was unanimous and for me I looked at it and thought it was really special – the fact that both of them have grown up at the stadium pretty much, literally grown up at the stadium before domestic and under-12s. Whenever they started – at the age of seven or eight – they’ve grown up in this stadium and never played for anyone else in their junior careers and I think that’s wonderful and they’ll do a fantastic job.”5

In October 2015 Clydesdale commented “It’s my first season as a starter. I want to take a step up from last season with court time and contribute more to the team and use the experience I’ve been able to get in the past year and really lead the team on the court. Being point guard, that’s my job.”6 In her first season as the Jayco Rangers co-captain in 2015/16 Aimie was expected to be the team’s starting point guard, however things did not go to plan as she suffered a knee injury early in the opening game of the season against Canberra. Clydesdale required a minor operation to repair meniscus damage in her knee and ended up playing less than 15 minutes court-time in total during the first two months of the season. Upon her return to the line-up Clydesdale played as back-up point guard.

On 8 January 2016 Clydesdale had an equal game-high six assists from just 18 minutes and 19 seconds court-time in a 16 point win on the road against the Adelaide Lightning. In front of the biggest WNBL crowd of the 2015/16 season, 2,481 People at the State Basketball Centre Clydesdale scored a season-high 12 points in Dandenong’s five point victory over the Melbourne Boomers on Australia Day Eve, making four of her nine field goal attempts.

 

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Dandenong finished third on the ladder with 15 wins and nine losses to make the WNBL finals for a club record sixth consecutive season, however for the fourth consecutive seasons they were unable to win a final, losing to the SEQ Stars by four points despite leading by 15 points late in the second quarter. In each of her first seven games of the season Aimie played less than 20 minutes court-time with the knee injury being a major factor in the limited minutes, however in all her remaining nine games of the season she played more than 20 minutes game-time. Aimie averaged 18.8 minutes per game and her numbers in 2015/16 remained similar to the ones she posted in 2014/15, during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 season Clydesdale played a total of 39 games, averaging 4.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Six of the seven Dandenong players that played at least 300 minutes court-time in 2015/16 returned in 2016/17 with the exception being import Annalise Pickrel who is playing in Russia. None of the four Rangers that played between 50 and 295 minutes in 2015/16 returned to the club this season with Tenaya Phillips and Tegan Cunningham joining rival WNBL clubs Perth Lynx and Melbourne Boomers respectively. Alex Bunton is playing in Russia whilst Jayco Rangers veteran Alison Downie who has the distinction of being the only player to play in all three of Dandenong’s WNBL championships is focussing on Australian Rules Football, having been drafted by the Carlton Football Club with selection 129 in the inaugural AFL Women’s draft on 12 October 2016 after being named in the 2016 VFL Women’s team of the year for her performances in the ruck for Diamond Creek.

Dandenong recruited three new players for the 2016/17 season, American imports Natalie Novosel and Ally Mallott and Victorian Rosie Fadljevic. Two members of the trio had played for the Jayco Rangers in the WNBL previously with shooting guard Novosel playing all 26 games for Dandenong in the WNBL during the 2013/14 season, whilst forward Fadljevic was a development player at Dandenong in 2012/13. Both players have played in WNBL championships with the Townsville Fire with Fadljevic playing in the 2014/15 title alongside current Rangers teammate Cumming, whilst Novosel played in the 2015/16 championship and was one of the best three point shooters in the league, making 34 of her 70 attempts for a phenomenal accuracy of 49%.     

In a 27 point victory against the Townsville Fire at home in Round 3 Clydesdale was very efficient in her 26 minutes and 41 seconds court-time, scoring 12 points to be one of four Rangers in double figures, and had an equal game-high six assists along with Cumming. Aimie shot the ball proficiently to have a field goal percentage of 55% comprised of two of four three-pointers and made three of her five two point shots.

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Clydesdale played a pivotal role in the Dandenong Rangers defeating cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers by two points, 69-67 in a thrilling Round 4 Melbourne Cup Eve clash in front of an attendance exceeding 2,000 people. With several Rangers down on their usual offensive output  Clydesdale and Blicavs stepped up, being the only two Jayco Rangers to make more than two field goal attempts for the game in a tough shooting night in which Dandenong shot the ball at 33% from the field, making 26 of their 78 field goal attempts.

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Melbourne shot out of the blocks to lead by 17 points 25-8 with just over two minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Aimie was rarely off the court throughout the game, playing 38 minutes and nine seconds to help Dandenong remaining within striking distance, scoring eight of Dandenong’s first 19 points, at which point Dandenong trailed by 10 points with 20 seconds played in the second quarter. Clydesdale scored the first basket in both terms of the opening half, comprised of a two point jump shot six seconds after the opening tip-off and a three-pointer on the first possession of the second term. Clydesdale had a game-high four assists, shot the ball at 45% from the field and made both her free-throw  attempts to finish the game with 15 points, ranked second for Dandenong behind Blicavs with 28 points, the third ranked Ranger was Cumming with eight points.

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In the post-game analysis following the Melbourne Cup eve game between Melbourne and Dandenong there was considerable discussion about a play that concluded with Clydesdale making a three-point shot with six minutes and three seconds remaining in the final term to put Dandenong up by two points 57-59. A WNBL league statement said “Peter Carey, Officials Manager at Basketball Australia has completed a full review and can confirm that there was an error made by the officials. Aimee Clydesdale’s three-point shot was made after the shot clock expired” the statement went on to say “the score should have been cancelled and possession awarded to Melbourne.”7 In the lead-up to Dandenong’s November 20 home game against Melbourne Clydesdale commented on the controversy “It was made out to be more than it was. It did happen with six minutes to go and I can understand their frustration but if it were us you would look at our turnovers, our shots – you can’t control that other stuff. Putting it down to a ref’s call – it doesn’t come down to one call.”8

The Jayco Rangers lost three of their first seven games of the 2016 /17 season, losing to Bendigo twice, once at home and once on the road. The third loss was at Dandenong Stadium to Canberra by 13 points 70-83 in a Round 5 Sunday afternoon game. In another home game less than a week later Dandenong played Canberra at Traralgon Sports Stadium and recorded a comprehensive 19 point victory 82-63, Clydesdale scored 12 points, ranked equal second for Dandenong and shot at 60% from the field, this victory for the Rangers was the start of a seven game winning streak. A fortnight later in the Round 8 home victory against Adelaide Clydesdale was one of two Rangers to play a milestone game, with both Aimie and Fadljevic playing their 100th WNBL games eight years after being team-mates on Victoria Metro’s gold medal winning team at the under 16 National Championships in 2008.

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During the Round 10 road double header Clydesdale set a new personal best for points scored in a WNBL season, surpassing her previous best of 106 points in 2014/15. Against Adelaide in the Friday night game Clydesdale made all five of her first half field goal attempts, scoring eight points in a scintillating two minutes and 54 seconds of game-time just after the half-way mark of the second term. Clydesdale finished the 15 point victory with 11 points, a team-high three assists, three rebounds and an equal game-high three steals. Aimie made five of her seven field goal attempts to shoot at an exceptional 71% from the field.

In the second game of their Round 10 road-double the top of the table Jayco Rangers played the Perth Lynx who were second on the ladder in a game broadcast in Western Australian on Channel 7, making it the first time that a WNBL game had been shown live on commercial television. Clydesdale started in blistering fashion to score seven points in the opening term to help set up a six point Rangers lead at quarter time. Dandenong played phenomenal team basketball to win by 21 points 92-71, having 21 assists and making 11 of their 17 three-pointers for an amazing accuracy of 65%. Clydesdale finished the game with 15 points, four assists and three rebounds, shooting at a superb 66% from the field.

In the 15 point loss to Sydney in Round 11 Clydesdale scored an equal-team high 15 points at 46% from the field and made a team-high four assists. It was Aimie’s second game in a row scoring 15 points and the third time in succession that she had scored at least 11 points in a game.

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During 2016/17 Clydesdale has been injury-free, is easily having the best season of her career and has established herself as the Dandenong Rangers starting point guard, being one of three Jayco Rangers to start all 15 games to date in the 2016/17 WNBL season along with Cumming & Blicavs. In 11 of the Rangers 15 games during 2016/17 they have had the same starting line-up with this trio  joined by Lauren Scherf and Ally Malott. Scherf and Malott have started 13 games each, with three other Rangers having at least one start – Natalie Novosel with two and Jacinta Kennedy and Amelia Todhunter with one each. Novosel has only played seven games in 2016/17 after suffering an early season knee injury and played restricted minutes upon her return. The Rangers have the depth on their roster which enables them to alter their starting line-up depending on the positional composition of the opposition or if they want a greater emphasis on defense as they did to great effect in Round 10 against Perth when Todhunter was brought into the starting line-up to defend Sami Whitcomb, the WNBL’s leading scorer and MVP front-runner was restricted to just eight points for the game.

 

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In her six WNBL seasons before 2016/17 Aimie’s most points per game was 4.6 in 2014/15, after scoring a total of only four points in her first two games of 2016/17 Aimie has been in career-best form, scoring at least six points in each of her last 13 games including more than 11 points seven times. Aimie is easily having the best season of her career in all three categories, her 9.6 points per game is up 109% on her previous best, whilst her 2.5 assists per game is a 79% improvement on her previous best of 1.4 per game in 2015/16. Whilst Aimie is shooting the ball more her accuracy has also increased, having a field goal accuracy of 42% in 2016/17, the second best of her WNBL career behind 50% in 2012/13 when she only had 36 field goal attempts for the season. Aimie ranks fifth at Dandenong for points per game, second for assists behind Cumming and third for steals behind Blicavs and Todhunter. The Jayco Rangers are one of only two clubs in the WNBL along with the Sydney Uni Flames that have five players averaging more than 9.0 points per game with the Rangers ranked ahead of Clydesdale in this category being Cumming (17.5), Blicavs (15.3), Novosel (11.4) and Malott (10.4).

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At the time of the Christmas break Dandenong are on top of the WNBL ladder with a record of 11 wins and four losses, however it is set to be a tight contest for positions in the top four at the end of the regular season with five team’s having a positive win-loss record and the Canberra Capitals in sixth position with a record of seven wins and seven losses. In the run home Dandenong play Sydney on the road and four teams at home and on the road – Adelaide, Melbourne, Townsville and Perth. Dandenong don’t play Bendigo or Canberra again during the 2016/17 regular season, having lost the season split to Bendigo 1-2 and having won the season head-to-head against Canberra 2-1. Dandenong have the best home record in the WNBL with six wins and two losses, and are ranked equal first on the road with Bendigo, having recorded five wins and two losses.

Whilst Aimie averaged less than 10 minutes court-time in each of her first four WNBL seasons from 2010/11 to 2013/14 she was able to soak up information and learn from players such as MacLeod, Mitchell, O’Hea and Cumming. Playing in both the WNBL and SEABL for Dandenong has worked to Aimie’s advantage in the long-term and when she finally got the chance be the starting point guard for the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team in January 2015 due to MacLeod’s knee injury she was able to draw on her experience at SEABL level as being a starter and playing a pivotal role in high pressure games, this contributed to Aimie remaining composed despite starting alongside established starters Pondexter, Taylor, Kunek and Pickrel. Whilst it was a small sample size to go off Clydesdale’s performances during her brief stint as starting point guard in 2014/15 gave the Jayco Rangers the confidence that Aimie had the skill-set to take on this role on a permanent basis in 2015/16. Whilst a knee injury in Dandenong’s opening game of the 2015/16 season restricted Aimie to remaining as a back-up point guard for the rest of that season, the confidence that Dandenong had in her has been vindicated this season. With nine regular season games of the 2016/17 season remaining Aimie has already set new career highs for points, assists, steals, blocks and three-pointers made in a season. Aimie’s confidence has grown throughout the season, and she has more confidence in taking the shot herself and in particular has improved her three-point shot. In 90 WNBL games from 2010/11 to 2015/16 Aimie made a total of 16 three-pointers equating to one every 5.6 games, in her 15 games during 2016/17 she is averaging exactly one three pointer made per game, and has been shooting at 37% from behind the arc – her most accurate season with at least 10 three point shots attempted.

On the eve of the 2016/17 WNBL season Aimie commented “As much as I love the SEABL getting that WNBL championship was even better.’’9 On 14th January 2017 there will be a function celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Dandenong Jayco Rangers Women’s National Basketball League Program at Dandenong Stadium before the game against arch rivals the Melbourne Boomers. Aimie’s former Rangers team-mate Penny Taylor will be a guest speaker. Aimie will be one of three Dandenong players in that game along with Cumming and Kennedy that have played in at least one WNBL Championship and over 100 WNBL games with the Jayco Rangers. Aimie has signed with the Jayco Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season and is striving to play a key role in the Jayco Rangers winning the club’s fourth WNBL championship after watching from the stands when Dandenong won their first two titles and then playing in the Rangers third championship as a development player.

In May 2016 Aimie signed with the Dandenong Rangers for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 WNBL seasons. At the time of the signing Elite Teams Administration Manager Trish Fallon said “A Rangers player who has come through the Dandenong Basketball pathways, Aimie is a great role model to all junior players showing how far hard work and persistence can take you. Aimie’s explosive speed and agility at both ends of the court and leadership from the point guard position will be crucial for the team’s success over the next two seasons.”10 It is rare for a player to play their first 100 WNBL games for one club and progress from development player to team co-captain during this time which makes it all the more notable when a player such as Aimie Clydesdale achieves this feat with the Jayco Rangers, especially after also playing at the Dandenong Basketball Association for her entire junior career. Whilst it has been a phenomenal journey from Aimie to progress from junior Rangers player to a development player for the Jayco Rangers to team co-captain, starting point guard and 100 game player, the story is far from over as Aimie’s journey with the Dandenong Rangers is set to continue for at least another 15 months.   

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/dandenong-rangers-guard-aimee-clydesdale-seizes-starting-chance-20150214-13esc8.html

2 http://wnbl.com.au/rangers-re-sign-clydesdale-for-two-years/

3 https://www.medibank.com.au/bemagazine/post/exercise/aimie-clydesdale-one-for-the-team/

4 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/dandenong-rangers-guard-aimee-clydesdale-seizes-starting-chance-20150214-13esc8.html

5 http://dandenong.starcommunity.com.au/journal/2015-10-08/rangers-ready-to-excite/

6 http://wnbl.com.au/player-profile-round-2-aimie-clydesdale/

7 http://wnbl.com.au/statement-on-conclusion-of-melbournedandenong-round-4-clash/

8 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/dandenong-rangers-melbourne-boomers-resume-rivalry-for-sunday-clash-20161119-gst0b6.html

9 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/south-east/sport/clydesdale-to-lead-rangers-out-in-saturdays-wnbl-opener-in-canberra/news-story/8418e982be2ace34161a07b68d63a779

10 http://wnbl.com.au/rangers-re-sign-clydesdale-for-two-years/

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