Dandenong Rangers co-captain Steph Cumming reaches 250 WNBL games

On 10 February 2017 against Townsville on the road Jayco Dandenong Rangers co-captain Steph Cumming played her 250th WNBL game, reaching the significant milestone in her 11th WNBL season. Cumming’s strengths are her athleticism, scoring capability – particularly with her preferred jump shot, durability, shooting accuracy and outstanding defense. Cumming is averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game during the 2016/17 season, her eighth consecutive season averaging in excess of 10 points per game.

At 26 years of age Cumming is already a young veteran of the WNBL, having played 252 games over 11 seasons at three clubs comprised of 157 games for Dandenong, 51 games for Townsville and 44 games for the AIS. Cumming made her WNBL debut for Dandenong at 16 years of age in 2006/07 and played two seasons for the AIS in 2007/08 and 2008/09. Cumming returned to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for four seasons from 2009/10 to 2012/13, winning the club’s MVP award in her first season back at Dandenong and was a starter in a Rangers line-up that made the finals in the following three seasons, including winning the 2011/12 WNBL Championship. Cumming was a key player at Townsville for two seasons in 2013/14 and 2014/15, with the club losing the grand final in 2013/14 and winning the WNBL championship in 2014/15.

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When Cumming returned to the Jayco Rangers for her third stint at the club in 2015/16 far more responsibility rested on her shoulders then in the previous five seasons of her WNBL career from 2010/11 to 2014/15. Cumming was a key player for her club’s during this time and built up her big-game experience by playing in the finals every season. During these five seasons four of Steph’s team-mates were named in the WNBL All-Star five in at least one season, comprised of two Dandenong players – Kathleen MacLeod and Jenna O’Hea and two Townsville frontcourt players in Suzy Batkovic and Cayla Francis. After regularly being the third best player on her WNBL team Cumming relished the increased responsibility of being a Ranger’s co-captain and a primary offensive threat during the 2015/16 season, setting new career-highs for points and assists per game during 2015/16 whilst also applying magnificent defensive pressure and providing tremendous leadership for a young Jayco Rangers line-up. After averaging between 10 and 14 points per game in six seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15 Cumming averaged 15.8 points per game in 2015/16, a 16% increase on her previous best of 13.6 points per game in 2011/12. Cumming was recognised for her brilliant 2015/16 WNBL season, winning the Rangers Most Valuable Player award and was also named the WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year. Cumming elevated her game during the 2015/16 season to finish in the top 10 of the votes for the WNBL All Star five team as well as the WNBL MVP award.

Cumming was named the SEABL’s MVP in 2015 and 2016 when she was playing for the Kilsyth Cobra’s, becoming just the fourth player in SEABL history to win back to back MVP Awards. Steph was selected in five consecutive All-SEABL teams from 2012 to 2016, playing for four different teams during this time. Cumming made her SEABL debut in 2010 with the Dandenong Rangers and played in three consecutive championships with the Rangers in her first three seasons.

In May 2016 Steph Cumming re-signed with the Dandenong Rangers for two more seasons taking her until the end of the 2017/18 season, by which point she would have played eight seasons for the club. After Steph had signed with the Jayco Rangers head coach Larissa Anderson commented “Steph is in WNBL career best form, showing time and time again how deadly her offensive game is and then also getting it done on the defensive end. She is an extremely hard worker that lifts the rest of the group and I am looking forward to another great year ahead from her.”1 On re-signing with the Jayco Rangers Cumming commented ‘I’m very excited to be back. We had a great team last year and hopefully we’ve got the bulk of the team coming back. That team made finals so hopefully we can go a couple better this time. Individually I’m really hoping to take on more of a leadership role. Hopefully I can improve on whatever skills I can, Larissa is really good at that, she always seems to pick up things we can improve on and focus on at training”2.

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On 14 January 2017 the Jayco Dandenong Rangers celebrated their 25th Anniversary of joining the WNBL and announced the top 25 Greatest Rangers during this time at a function before the thrilling overtime win against cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers. Steph was one of only two current Rangers players along with forward/centre Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton) to be named in the top 25. Cumming was one of four Rangers from the club’s 2011/12 championship winning team to be named in the top 25 along with Kathleen MacLeod, Jenna O’Hea and Alison Downie. Other former team-mates of Steph’s to be named in the Rangers best 25 were Caitlin Ryan, Monica Wright, Emily McInerney, Larissa Anderson and Sam Richards.

During the 2016/17 WNBL regular season Cumming ranked sixth in the league for points per game and 10th for assists, being one of only three players to rank in the top 10 in both categories along with fellow guards Sami Whitcomb and Leilani Mitchell. Cumming also ranks 25th in the league for rebounds per game and equal 23rd for total steals. During the 2016/17 season Cumming has increased her output to set new career highs for points, assists and rebounds per game.

With a record of 15 wins and nine losses at the conclusion of the 2016/17 regular season the Rangers finished second on the ladder to secure a finals berth for a seventh consecutive season, the longest current streak in the league and a club record. Dandenong play the third placed Perth Lynx in a best of three series in one semi final whilst minor premiers Sydney Uni Flames oppose the reigning champions the Townsville Fire in the other semi final. In both series the higher ranked team host game 1 on Saturday February 25th and game 3 (if required) on Sunday March 5th whilst the lower ranked team hosts game 2 on Friday March 3rd. The winner of each semi final will progress to a best of three Grand Final series to play for the title of 2016/17 WNBL Champions. This is the first season that the WNBL has had a best of three semi final series whilst a best of three Grand Final series was introduced for the 2015/16 season.

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Stephanie Cumming was born on 26 July 1990, after watching her older brother Jamie play basketball Cumming took up the sport at seven years of age.

Stephanie played juniors for the Dandenong Rangers and represented Victoria at the National Junior Championships in five consecutive years, under 14’s in 2002 and 2003, under 16’s in 2004 and 2005 and under 18’s in 2006.

Cumming made her WNBL debut with the Jayco Rangers at 16 years of age in 2006/17, playing 12 games for Dandenong, in limited minutes Cumming averaged 1.0 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game. Steph’s team-mates at the Rangers included Emily McInerney, Larissa Anderson, Alison Downie, Sam Richards, Jenna O’Hea and Kathleen MacLeod. Dandenong finished fourth at the end of regular season with a record of 12 wins and nine losses and lost to Adelaide by five points in the minor semi-final.

Steph accepted a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), playing all 24 games for the AIS in 2007/08 she averaged 5.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game. The AIS had eight wins and 16 losses and although they finished ninth in a 10 team league they were only four games behind the fourth placed Dandenong Rangers. Cumming’s AIS team-mates in 2007/08 included Mariana Tolo, Cayla George (nee Francis), Mia Murray (nee Newley) and Nicole Hunt.

The AIS finished last of 10 teams in the WNBL during 2008/09 with a record of two wins and 20 losses, two games behind ninth placed Perth, but with a slightly better percentage, 77.5% to Perth’s 75.7%. In her final season at the AIS in 2008/09 Cumming played 20 games, averaging 8.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 25.9 minutes per game. Cumming led the AIS for assists, ranked third for scoring behind Liz Cambage and Rachel Jarry and fifth for rebounds.

In June 2009 Cumming represented Australia’s women’s under 19’s team the Gems at a warm-up tournament in France before the under 19 World Championships. During the warm-up tournament Australia recorded wins against China, Turkey, Latvia, Russia, Belgium and France.

Cumming was the captain of the Australian team at the 2009 under 19 World Championships held in Bankgkok, Thailand in late July and early August. Other members of Australia’s under 19 team included Liz Cambage, Rachel Jarry, Tess Madgen, Gretal Tippett, Alice Kunek, Kerryn Harrington and Ashleigh Karaitiana. In an interview with FIBA before the championships started Cumming was asked “Is there a player that you have looked up to with the Australia senior team, or somewhere else in the world that inspires you?” Cumming responded “Definitely Penny Taylor (2006 FIBA World Championship for Women MVP). She is so athletic. She can handle the ball and is a really good team player. She brings so much to the game. She makes everyone around her play better when she is on the court.”3

Australia won all three of their Group A games to finish on top of their group at the under 19 world championships and extended their winning streak at the tournament to six games but due to losing to Canada 49-50 in a quarter final the Gems missed out on the medal games. Australia won their two classification games against Russia by 40 points and France by 18 points to finish fifth. Cumming played all nine games for Australia, averaging 5.9 points, 3.0 rebounds 1.4 assists and 23.6 minutes per game to rank fifth for points and assists for the Gems.

After two seasons with the AIS Cumming returned to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for the 2009/10 season. Dandenong finished seventh on the ladder with seven wins, 15 losses and a percentage of 93.6%. Cumming played all 22 games, averaging 11.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 27.3 minutes per game. Cumming led Dandenong for points, ranked fourth for assists, steals and blocks and fifth for rebounds. Cumming was the only Ranger to average more than 10 points per game however three of her team-mates averaged above nine points per game, fellow guard Caitlin Ryan (9.8 points), Casey Nash (9.7), and Ashley Lindsay (9.1). Other members of the Rangers team included Alison Downie, Antonia Edmondson, Nicole Hunt, Megan Moody, Amelia Todhunter, Clare Papavs and Faith Probst. At just 19 years of age Cumming won the Dandenong Rangers Most Valuable Player award. Cumming was required to spend time playing as a point guard early in the season due to injuries to the Rangers starting and back-up point guards. Later in the season Cumming returned to her more familiar role as shooting guard and scored a season-high 20 points in multiple games.

Dandenong had a vastly different roster in 2010/11, with only three players returning from the 2009/10 season – Cumming, Downie and Hope Terdich. The Rangers recruited four players that had been named in the WNBL All-Star five one time each during the previous three seasons, Kathleen MacLeod, Abby Bishop, Jess Foley and Tracey Gahan. Dandenong finished the regular season fourth on the ladder with 12 wins and 10 losses, behind Bulleen (19 wins), Canberra (18 wins) and Bendigo (15 wins). Dandenong hosted Logan in an elimination final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium but were defeated by 10 points, 83-73. Cumming played all 23 games, averaging 10.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 24.0 minutes per game. Stephanie ranked third at Dandenong for points behind MacLeod (15.4 points) and Bishop (15.1), third for steals, seventh for rebounds and sixth for assists. On 19 February 2011 Cumming scored a career-high 26 points against the reigning champions, the Bulleen Boomers.  Steph ranked third in the WNBL for three-point accuracy during the 2010/11 season, making 39% of her three-pointers comprised of 30 successful shots from 77 attempts.

Cumming and MacLeod were the only two Jayco Rangers starters that returned from 2010/11, the three starters that did not return for the 2011/12 season were Bishop, Foley and Gahan, this trio were replaced by recruits Krista Phillips and Jenna O’Hea 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. Dandenong were strongly placed to make the finals at the half-way point of the season with eight wins and four losses, however they lost four games in a row to Logan, Bulleen and Bendigo twice to be a middle of the road team personified with a record of eight wins and eight losses two thirds of the way into the season and looked very unlikely to make the WNBL finals. This prompted an honest discussion amongst the Dandenong players and coaching staff on what they needed to change. From that point on Dandenong looked revitalised and 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 (now Melbourne) 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. Cumming had easily the best regular season of her WNBL career to that stage, averaging career highs for points and rebounds and averaged 2.0 assists per game, just below her career-best of 2.1 in 2008/09 with the AIS.

Townsville defeated Sydney by seven points in a mid-week elimination final at home to progress to a semi-final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium against the Rangers. Townsville were strongly placed to cause an upset in the semi final, leading Dandenong 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 by 11 points, 77 points to 66. Bulleen won a thrilling major semi-final against Adelaide 73 to 70 which led to Dandenong travelling to Adelaide to play the Lightning in a preliminary final. Adelaide led Dandenong 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 Tegan Cunningham was critical in the turn around with the Jayco Rangers winning 91 points to 78.

The 2011/12 WNBL Grand Final 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 Boomers starting line-up of Sam Richards, Great Britian import Johannah Leedham, Rachel Jarry, Alice Kunek and Liz Cambage contained three players ranked in the top 12 of the WNBL during 2011/12 for points per game – Cambage (2nd), Jarry (11th) and Richards (12th). Five of the top 12 scorers in the league played in the Grand Final as MacLeod ranked fifth and O’Hea ranked eighth. Cumming was the Rangers third highest scorer and ranked 19th in the league.

The Bulleen Boomers had a great start in the Grand Final to lead 11 points to four, three and a half minutes into the opening quarter, however the Jayco Rangers scored the next 12 points including eight from Cumming to gain the ascendancy, 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 and recorded a comfortable victory by 24 points, 94 points to 70. Despite fouling out early in the last quarter Cumming was one of the best players on court, scoring 19 points with an accuracy of 64% from the field, making seven of her 11 field goals. It was the third WNBL Championship in the Dandenong Rangers history, having previously gone back to back to win the 2003/04 and 2004/05 championships. Point guard Kathleen MacLeod scored 22 points and made nine assists to win the Grand Final MVP whilst guard/forward Jenna O’Hea scored 20 points and took seven rebounds.

During the 2011/12 season 178 centimetre tall shooting guard Cumming played all 25 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 29.5 minutes per game. Cumming ranked third at Dandenong for scoring behind MacLeod and O’Hea, fifth for rebounds and blocked shots, third for assists and minutes played and fourth for steals. For the second consecutive season Steph ranked third in the WNBL for three-point accuracy during the 2011/12 season, making  34 of her 84 three-pointers  for an accuracy of 40.5%.

Steph played a total of 737 minutes during 2011/12 to be one of six Dandenong Rangers to play over 500 minutes for the season, the five starters and sixth man Cunningham. Five of these six players averaged over 9.0 points per game, with Cumming being joined by MacLeod (16.7), O’Hea (16.2), Phillips (11.2) and Cunningham (9.2). Whilst Downie’s scoring output was lower at 6.0 points per game she was Dandenong’s best defensive player. Other members of the Rangers Championship winning team were Samantha Woosnam, Louella Tomlinson, Clare Papavs, Brittany Wilkins, Hope Terdich and current Rangers co-captain Aimie Clydesdale who at the time was a development player.

The Rangers retained just over half of their Championship winning roster for the 2012/13 WNBL season, with the starting five along with sixth man Cunningham and teenage point guard Clydesdale 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.

The Dandenong 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. During the season the Rangers recruited American import Monica Wright which increased their depth even further. 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.

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In 2012/13 Cumming played all 26 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 11.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 25.5 minutes per game. Cumming ranked fourth at Dandenong for points per game, fifth for assists and steals, and third for total minutes played behind O’Hea and MacLeod who were both named in the 2012/13 WNBL All-Star five. Cumming’s numbers were slightly down in 2012/13 compared to 2011/12, however this was largely due to the Rangers having increased depth with eight players averaging at least 6.0 points per game in 2012/13, up from six players in 2011/12, this resulted in Cumming’s game-time falling by 14%. From an accuracy point of view Cumming had the best shooting season of her WNBL career to that stage, setting new career highs for field goal and three point accuracy with 47.4% and 42.5% respectively, whilst also having her second most accurate season at the free throw line, making 41 of her 45 shots for an accuracy of 91.5%. Yet again Cumming ranked third in the WNBL for three-point accuracy, making 33 of her 74 three-pointers for an accuracy of 44.6%.

After spending four consecutive seasons playing for the Dandenong Rangers Cumming joined the Townsville Fire for the 2013/14 WNBL season. Townsville were the surprise packet of the 2012/13 season, losing the Grand Final to Bendigo 57 to 71. Townsville improved their roster in the off-season by signing Cumming as well as three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic. Townsville retained their position as one of the best teams in the WNBL during the 2013/14 season, recording 16 wins and eight losses to have the same record as Dandenong but due to losing the head to head series the Fire finished in third position, behind the Rangers and five games behind the league leading Bendigo Spirit. After defeating Melbourne by five points in a home semi final Townsville travelled to Dandenong for a preliminary final. It was the fourth season in a row that Steph played a final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium and third season in a row that the Jayco Rangers hosted the Townsville Fire in a final, however it was a very different experience for Steph in 2013/14 being a key member of the visiting Townsville Fire roster. In a thrilling high quality game Townsville won by three points, 74 to 71 to record a road victory against the Rangers in a preliminary final for the second season in a row, Steph played a pivotal role in the victory against her old side, contributing 15 points. With the Grand Final being hosted by Bendigo against a visiting Townsville Fire outfit that had won the season split between the two clubs 2-1 the expectations were that it would be a closer Grand Final than the previous season. This was exactly how it played out with Bendigo leading by only two points at three-quarter time. Bendigo scored the opening nine points of the final quarter to set up an 11 point victory over Townsville to win back to back WNBL Championships. Bendigo forward Kelsey Griffin scored 28 points and had 15 rebounds to win the Grand Final MVP for the second year in a row.

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During 2013/14 Cumming played all 27 games for the Townsville Fire, averaging 11.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 29.3 minutes per game. Steph ranked second at Townsville for points per game behind Suzy Batkovic, sixth for rebounds, second for assists behind Fire captain Rachael McCully and equal fifth for steals. Cumming led the WNBL for free-throw accuracy in the regular season with 92.3% and also made a career-best 45.3% of her three-pointers

In April 2014 Cumming re-signed with the Townsville Fire for the 2014/15 season and commented “They put in an offer and I loved it so much last year I thought I’d come back. It was difficult because I have family and everyone’s down there (Melbourne), but I thought I had to give it another crack because we were so close (to winning the championship) this year. It’s a little bit of unfinished business, because no one likes to lose and knowing you got so close, you kind of want to finish it off. Hopefully we can do one better.”4 Townsville Fire head coach Chris Lucas was relieved to have Cumming returning for her second season at Townsville, saying “Replacing her would have been a challenge I have no doubt. Steph fits our culture; she is very hardworking and contributes on both ends of the floor. She adds so much to our team defensively. She is regularly given the challenge of matching up against our opponent’s best player, and she relishes that role. In addition her ability to consistently shoot from long range combined with her athleticism makes her a very difficult player to defend.”5

During 2014/15 Townsville continued to improve and were the best team during the WNBL regular season, winning the minor premiership with a record of 17 wins and five losses, two games ahead of the second placed Bendigo Spirit. Townsville comprehensively outplayed Bendigo 82 points to 63 in the major semi-final to progress to the Grand Final. Bendigo defeated Sydney by eight points in the preliminary final to set-up their third consecutive Grand Final against Bendigo. Townsville trailed Bendigo 4-12 early in the Grand Final but were able to draw level later in the first quarter. After leading 47 to 39 at half-time Townsville went on to win the Grand Final 75 points to 65 to win their first WNBL Championship. In the Grand Final Cumming scored 12 points, Batkovic scored 22 points and Mia Muray won the Rachel Sporn medal as Grand Final MVP with 23 points.

During 2014/15 Cumming played all 24 games for the Townsville Fire, averaging 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 24.5 minutes per game. In 2014/15 Cumming ranked third at Townsville for scoring, seventh for rebounds and equal third for assists and steals.

SEABL career from 2010 to 2015

After four seasons out of the SEABL and competing in the Big V league the Dandenong Rangers re-joined the SEABL competition in 2009. Cumming joined the Rangers for their second season back in the SEABL in 2010. During 2009 the Rangers made the finals but were defeated in a semi final.

Larissa Anderson was the playing head-coach in 2010 for the Dandenong Rangers SEABL team. Anderson had some previous coaching experience in the SEABL, including winning the Coach of the Year Award in 2004. 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. Dandenong lost their opening two games of the 2010 season and then went on a 15 game winning streak to end the season with a league best record of 17 wins and five losses.  The Rangers won all of their finals, winning the 2010 SEABL Championship against the Launceston Tornadoes to win the club’s fourth SEABL Championship, following previous triumphs in 1990, 1991, and 2001. In her first SEABL season Steph played 21 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 14.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

After the 2010 season Larissa Anderson retired as a SEABL player and focused purely on her role as head-coach. In 2011 Dandenong finished second on the ladder, in the semi final against Knox who had finished the season on top of the ladder the Rangers trailed by five points with less than two minutes remaining before scoring the last eight points of the game to get a thrilling three point victory.

Knox progressed to the 2011 SEABL Grand Final to face Dandenong again. The Rangers led by a point 47 to 46 at three quarter-time, however with five minutes, 43 seconds remaining and the Rangers leading by two points their centre Elyse Penaluna seriously injured her right knee which forced her off the court for not just the remainder of that game but the entire 2011/2012 WNBL season with the Bulleen Boomers as well. Dandenong again finished the final quarter strongly, going on a 9-3 run in the remaining time to win the Grand Final by eight points. Cumming played 16 games for Dandenong in 2011, averaging 13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Going back to back as SEABL Champions for the Dandenong Rangers had an additional element of emotion as on the morning of the Rangers semi final against Knox the Dandenong Rangers President Charles Ryan passed away. The Dandenong Rangers dedicated their 2011 finals campaign and eventual championship to Ryan.

Like in 2010 Dandenong started 2012 slowly, losing their opening two games of the season but then rebounded strongly to win 17 of their next 19 games. Despite losing two of their final five games the Rangers finished on top of the ladder in the East Conference, 2012 was the first season that the Women’s SEABL competition had split into two conferences, South and East. In the Championship Grand Final Dandenong played Knox for the second year in a row, a club that had defeated Dandenong twice early in the season. Scores were level 26 points apiece at half-time of the Championship Grand Final however a dominant second-half performance resulted in Dandenong recording a comfortable victory 65 to 48. Cumming played a pivotal role in the Rangers gaining the ascendancy, scoring seven points in the third quarter to help her team outscore Knox 19-7 for the term.

Cumming played 17 games for the Rangers in 2012, averaging 17.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Cumming was the only Dandenong Rangers player named in the 2012 All-SEABL team. Over three SEABL seasons from 2010 to 2012 Dandenong had a combined record of 65 wins and 14 losses, including 7-0 in finals for a winning percentage of 82.3%. The Dandenong Rangers became the first team in SEABL history to win three consecutive championships.

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Cumming joined the Frankston Lady Blues for the 2013 SEABL season and played 13 games for  Frankston in 2013, averaging 24.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Steph was named in the 2013 All-SEABL team, being joined in the team by Frankston Blues teammate Nicole Romeo. Steph won the SEABL’s leading scorer award for averaging the most points per game. Despite missing 11 games due to playing for Australia at the World University games and on an Emerging Opals tour Cumming polled 77 votes in the 2013 SEABL MVP award to finish in equal 12th position with Tegan Cunningham, 44 votes behind Knox Raiders point guard Kelly Wilson who won the award.

Appearing on the 2013 SEABL preview show – Women episode 20 Steph Cumming commented on being part of the Australian team that won a bronze medal at the 2013 World University games “It was brilliant, I couldn’t have asked for a better team, I mean you don’t very often get a team that gets along so well when we just kind of got thrown together at the last minute. We had two practice games and then we were straight into the tournament because the older Opals had taken a team to China and the emerging Opals had taken a team to China, then it merged but it was absolutely brilliant, I had the time of my life.” Later in the episode Steph was asked “So travelling and playing with the emerging Opals team for the World Uni games, how far off being an Australian Opal do you think that you are?” Steph responded “I have so much to work on, it is one of those things were you go oh, I think I am getting better, I think I am getting better, then you play with better caliber players and you realise how much you have to work on. Definitely I have to work on my left hand, and just knowledge of the game, like certain things where you wouldn’t think of you something and then you see a Snelly, or a Screeny or a Suzy do something and you are like they are just so knowledgeable on the game and they know where players are going to be and how to move their body and it is just something that you need experience with and the more you play the more you are going to get better at it.” When asked ‘favourite basketball moment?’ Steph responded, “There’s been that many, it would have to be the WNBL Grand Final that we won, there were six of us standing on the sideline and we were counting down the clock, and we were all holding hands and when the siren went we just sprinted on the court and it was pretty special.”

During 2014 Steph played for her third SEABL team in three seasons, joining the Ballarat Rush. Cumming played 22 games for Ballarat in 2014, averaging 20.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, easily surpassing her previous SEABL best of 3.1 assists per game in 2013. Steph was named in the All-SEABL team for the third consecutive year and was the only Ballarat player to be selected in the team.

During 2015 Steph joined her fourth SEABL team in four seasons, playing for the Kilsyth Cobras under head coach Sam Woosnam who was a team-mate of Steph’s on the Dandenong Rangers 2011/12 WNBL Championship winning team. On playing for several different clubs in the previous few years Steph commented “Travelling around has been really good because it’s something I wouldn’t have ever been able to do if I wasn’t playing back-to-back seasons. I’ve been able to move to Townsville, go and see Ballarat, play at Frankston and now Kilsyth. It’s a really interesting insight into clubs and people. Each club runs things differently, both in WNBL and SEABL, and has such a different feel. If I had have just went to school and uni I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had to live and play around Australia.”6

In 2015 Steph was named in the All-SEABL team for the fourth consecutive year and also won the league’s highest individual honour – the SEABL MVP award. Steph made a league-high 88% of her free-throw attempts and finished second in the defensive player of the year award behind Launceston Tornadoes centre Mikaela Ruef. From 2013 to 2015 Cumming made 235 of her 265 free-throw attempts in the SEABL for an accuracy of 88.7%, a significant improvement on her accuracy of 74.8% during her first three SEABL seasons from 2010 to 2012.

Kilsyth made the 2015 SEABL Championship final against the Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. After leading Dandenong by a point 30 to 31 with just over a minute remaining in the first half, Kilsyth were outplayed over the next five minutes with Dandenong finishing the first half strongly and maintaining their momentum early in the third quarter to go on a 14 points to two run to lead by 11 points, 44 to 33 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Dandenong Rangers remained in control for the rest of the game to win the game by 13 points, 76 to 63. Cumming played 26 games for Kilsyth in 2015, averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

2015/16 WNBL season with the Dandenong Rangers

After two seasons playing for Townsville Steph re-joined the Dandenong Rangers for the 2015/16 season. In May 2015 after signing with the Jayco Rangers Steph commented “I didn’t realise how much I missed home until I was back here after WNBL. Seeing mum, dad and Kris (boyfriend and basketballer Kris Blicavs) every day I thought geez I miss being home, spending time with them and seeing my friends at the drop of a hat, just sending a text then meeting up. You become used to checking your schedule and the fixture, seeing you’re home in three weeks and saying to your friends I’ve got an hour before our game if you want to catch up for 20 minutes. If they are late or something happens you’ve got to cancel until next time.’’7

Having been coached for three seasons at SEABL level by Larissa Anderson, Cumming would now be coached by her at WNBL level. Steph commented “I’m really excited for Larissa, she’s been hanging in there waiting for her chance and now she’s got it I know she’s going to take it. Half the girls who have been recruited had been involved in the SEABL program. Larissa said she really wanted to get back Dandenong girls, girls who have played here or come through the juniors. Aimee Clydesdale gets her chance and Tegan Cunningham and Sara Blicavs are back. All us Dandenong girls from the SEABL teams are so close. We all went out for dinner for Amelia Todhunter’s birthday a few weeks ago and still have big catch ups.’’8

Only one of Dandenong’s starters from 2014/15 returned for the 2015/16 season, American import Annalise Pickrel who averaged 11.1 points per game in 2014/15, ranked fifth at Dandenong. The four starters that didn’t return for the 2015/16 season were all ranked in the top 15 of the WNBL for points per game in 2014/15, being Penny Taylor (19.3 points per game), Cappie Pondexter (17.0), Alice Kunek (12.9) and Kathleen McLeod (12.9). Core players that returned from 2014/15 in addition to Pickrel were 2014/15 WNBL Rookie of the Year Lauren Scherf, Aimie Clydesdale and Tegan Cunningham, resulting in four of the eight players that formed Dandenong’s core rotation in 2014/15 returning in 2015/16. In March 2015 Larissa Anderson was named as the Dandenong Rangers WNBL head coach for the 2015/16 season, replacing Mark Wright who had the role for five years. Larissa became the first woman to coach the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL, and shortly after her appointment she stated an intention to recruit players that had represented the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL previously, which she followed through on, recruiting five former Rangers players in Cumming, Jacinta Kennedy, Amelia Todhunter, Sara Blicavs 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.

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In an interview with Fairfax Media journalist Roy Ward the week before her first WNBL game back with the Dandenong Rangers Cumming commented on her return “I wasn’t too stressed about coming back because I was part of the three-peat at SEABL level which Larissa coached and I’d kept in contact with all the Dandenong girls while I was away. It’s the first home game so it’s always a bit exciting but it will be a little different to again be putting on that green singlet. I’ll be a little bit nervous like you usually are before a big game but hopefully we will do well. A fair few of us have played together before but we have a quick, athletic group who already seem to know what each other likes to do on the court. Ris [Anderson] has done a great job recruiting players who enjoy playing together.”9

Cumming was named Jayco Dandenong Rangers co-captain along with another player whose junior association was Dandenong – point guard Aimie Clydesdale. The duo who both grew up in Endeavour Hills were voted into the role of co-captain by their team-mates, Dandenong head-coach 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.”10

Anderson had coached six members of Dandenong’s 2015/16 WNBL roster in the SEABL during 2015 and had also coached Cumming and Scherf in the SEABL during previous seasons, with Cumming being a key player in the Rangers three consecutive SEABL titles from 2010 to 2012. 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.

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Embarking on her third stint with the Rangers in the WNBL Cumming was able to draw on the experiences of playing two seasons with Townsville including being part of a 2014/15 championship side and of playing for three different SEABL teams since her last WNBL season with the Rangers in 2012/13. These experiences together with the familiarity she could draw on, having played in the WNBL and/or SEABL with most of her 2015/16 Rangers team-mates previously made the transition to being a primary offensive threat for the Dandenong considerably easier, given that in her three previous seasons with the Jayco Rangers she ranked third for total points for the season.

Cumming started the 2015/16 season in tremendous fashion, scoring 17 points or more four times in her first five games including 22 points in a game twice. In Round 3 Cumming shot the ball superbly against Bendigo, making seven of her 10 field goal attempts and was three from six for three-pointers to score 18 points in 29 minutes game-time during Dandenong’s 32 point win at home.

Cumming was named in the WNBL’s team of the week three times in 2015/16, Rounds 8, 12 and 15. In Round 8 Cumming played a brilliant game in Dandenong’s 20 point victory against Sydney at home, scoring 23 points, making eight of 14 field goals, including two of five three pointers and made all five free-throws.

In December 2015 Steph got engaged to Kris Blicavs, the brother of Steph’s Dandenong teammate Sara. In 2016 all three Blicavs’ siblings were playing for a club in Geelong, with Kris and Sara both playing basketball for the Geelong Supercats in the SEABL whilst Mark played his fourth season for Geelong in the AFL, having been a revelation in 2015, winning the club’s best and fairest.

In Dandenong’s first game of 2016 they had a critical six point win on the road against the SEQ Stars in Round 12 with Cumming playing a magnificent all-round game with a game-high 21 points, five rebounds and an equal game-high four assists. Cumming had a superb shooting night, making seven of her 13 field goal attempts, all four free-throws and three of her four three-pointers including one in the final two minutes of the game to extend the Rangers lead to seven points.

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Dandenong started slowly in their Round 13 game on the road against Adelaide but were able to reduce the margin to four points at half-time. Led by a captain’s game from Cumming with 20 points and six assists – both team-highs, the Rangers overpowered Adelaide in the second half to win by 16 points, 79 to 63.

Against Bendigo in Round 15 at Dandenong Stadium Cumming shot the ball proficiently, making seven of her 11 field goal attempts, one of her two three-pointers and all eight free throws to score a game-high 23 points. During the eight point victory Cumming also took a season-high eight rebounds ranked second in the game behind Jacinta Kennedy with 10.

The Dandenong Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder with a record of 15 wins and nine losses, two wins behind minor premiers, Townsville Fire and one win behind the second placed Perth Lynx. The fourth placed SEQ Stars also finished with 15 wins and nine losses but lost the tie-breaker due to Dandenong having the better head to head record, winning two of the three games between the clubs during the regular season.

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A key reason in Dandenong making the WNBL finals was their remarkable record in close games, of their 14 games decided by eight points or less during the 2015/16 regular season they won 12 and lost only two. Dandenong’s depth was extremely important throughout the 2015/16 season given that due to injury they frequently had one or more of their core players missing. The Dandenong Rangers had the equal-best home record in the WNBL during the regular season with the Perth Lynx, having a record of nine wins and three losses. With their entertaining brand of basketball and their superb record of winning close games at home the Rangers provided tremendous value for money for their members in 2015/16. Dandenong had six wins and six losses on the road, the equal fourth best record in the WNBL, three games behind the best road team, the eventual 2015/16 WNBL Champions the Townsville Fire.

Cumming polled 73 votes in the 2015/16 WNBL MVP award to finish sixth, and lead the Rangers ahead of forward Sara Blicavs who finished 10th with 56 votes. Cumming also received six votes for the WNBL All-Star five team, to be ranked equal seventh in the WNBL, Suzy Batkovic and Sami Whitcomb received 15 votes each, whilst Kelsey Griffen, Katie-Rae Ebzery and Leilani Mitchell all received nine votes each. These five players were selected in the 2015/16 WNBL All-Star five with SEQ point guard Lauren Mansfield polling the next most votes with seven ahead of Cumming, Cayla George and Betnijah Laney all on six votes.

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Dandenong hosted SEQ in the minor semi final and held the ascendancy for most of the game, leading by 15 points late in the second quarter, however SEQ overran Dandenong to win by four points. The Jayco Dandenong Rangers broke a club record in making the WNBL finals for a sixth consecutive season in 2015/16,

During 2015/16 Cumming played all 25 games for Dandenong, averaging 15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 35.9 minutes per game. Stephanie ranked eighth in the league for points per game, fifth in free throw percentage with 85.1% and 15th for assists per game. In 2015/16 Cumming led Dandenong for points, assists and minutes played, ranked third for steals and fourth for rebounds and blocked shots. Cumming scored more than 19 points eight times in 2015/16 including a season best of 23 points twice. As well as ranking in the top 15 of the WNBL for points and assists per game during 2015/16 Cumming also ranked equal 21st for total steals and 23rd for total blocks.

Cumming’s scoring was very consistent in six seasons since beginning her second stint with the Dandenong Rangers in 2009/10 until 2014/15, in five seasons she averaged between 10.2 and 11.7 points per game in a season and in 2011/12 her average was 13.6 points per game. For several seasons Cumming has been one of the best jump-shooters in the WNBL and this continued to be a strength in 2015/16. Cumming was restricted to under 12 points four times in 2015/16, although one of these games was the semi-final loss to the SEQ Stars. Cumming was very durable during 2015/16, playing all 25 games for Dandenong, she played over 29 minutes in every game and played over 35 minutes 17 times.

Dandenong were ranked number 1 in the league for defending three point shots, with their opponents making 31% of their three-pointers in 2015/16. The Defensive Player of the year award was voted on by the coaches and captains from the nine WNBL clubs. Cumming polled 25 votes to win the award ahead of Perth Lynx centre Louella Tomlinson and Bendigo Spirit forward Kelsey Griffen. Cumming was the second Dandenong Ranger to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, joining Emily McInerney who holds the all-time record, having won the award a phenomenal nine times.

On winning the Wattle Valley WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award Cumming commented “It was very unexpected, I was quite surprised. I try to take pride in every aspect of my game but as part of [coach] Larissa Anderson’s game-plan she was really focused on defence and I guess that came through. Larissa would go through match-ups with us and most weeks we would have a chat about it and who I would prefer to play on and then she would chip in with who she thought would be best. I never really thought of myself as a defensive player but I always take pride in it and not wanting to be beaten.”11

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In her 10th season in the WNBL, Dandenong Rangers shooting guard Cumming elevated her game to a new level to emerge as one of the 10 best players in the league during the 2015/16 season, playing excellent basketball both offensively and defensively which resulted in her finishing equal seventh in the WNBL MVP award and winning the WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award. With her mix of athleticism, scoring capability – particularly with her preferred jump shot, durability, shooting accuracy, and outstanding defense Cumming was a very worthy winner of the Dandenong Rangers 2015/16 Most Valuable Player award, the second time she had won the club’s MVP award, having previously won in 2009/10.

Cumming attended the Jayco Australian Opals camps 1 and 2 in March and April 2016 before being cut from the Opals squad for the Olympic Games in Rio. Steph was the second last Rangers player to be cut from the squad with Sara Blicavs being a member of a 12 player Opals squad that toured  Japan from May 3 to May 12. Whilst no current Rangers made the Opals 2016 Olympic Games team former Ranger Penny Taylor was the Opals captain.

2016 SEABL season with the Kilsyth Cobras

Cumming remained with Kilsyth for the 2016 SEABL season and the club were again outstanding during the regular season to record a league best 18 wins and four losses. Cumming maintained her brilliant form from the previous season to be named in the All-SEABL team for a fifth consecutive season.

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Kilsyth progressed to a second consecutive SEABL Championship final against the Dandenong Rangers with the 2016 decider played at the State Basketball Centre. Kilsyth were victorious in both regular season matches against the Rangers, by five points on the road in Round 3 and by six points at home in Round 18. Kilsyth were outplayed during the first quarter to trail 16-26 at quarter-time and ended up losing the game by 12points, 66-78. Cumming played 24 games for Kilsyth in 2016, averaging 22.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Cumming won her second consecutive SEABL MVP award, polling 125 votes to finish ahead of Launceston Tornadoes guard Alex Wilson on 118 votes, Dandenong Rangers centre Lauren Scherf on 107 votes and Kilsyth team-mate Jasmine Gill on 97 votes.

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In an interview with Megan Hustwaite during the week after the 2016 SEABL season concluded Steph commented “It’s been an absolutely jam packed month with finals, my last placement, uni work and we’ve just bought the house so we’ve had meetings with the bank and solicitors. Before games we’d be going to open houses and I’d be doing homework before and after training. As I said at the awards, it’s been a big year for me trying to do adult things. I said it in jest but I do feel more like an adult.”12 On her 2016 SEABL season Steph downplayed her achievements, commenting “I think my season was alright but by no means spectacular. I tried to be consistent and do the same things every week. I love playing SEABL and it helps keep me fit during the WNBL off-season. Sam gives me things to do each week and I really like the social side of the league too, it’s really competitive but I really enjoy the different feel.”13

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2016/17 WNBL season with the Dandenong Rangers

After Steph signed with the Jayco Rangers for another two WNBL seasons in May 2016 Dandenong Basketball Elite Teams Administration Manager Trish Fallon commented “A fan favourite on and off the court, Steph is one of the hardest working players who will play a major role in the success of the Dandenong Jayco Rangers the next two seasons. We will again look at being proactive in the community and Steph will be a big part of this in showcasing basketball to the Greater Dandenong community.”14

Speaking about playing a second WNBL season under Anderson at Dandenong in 2016/17 Steph commented “We had a great first year under Larissa Anderson and with a new team, I don’t think people expected us to do so well. Now those foundations are laid we’ll be more of a threat but we also know won’t be able to go under the radar.”15

Six of the seven Dandenong players that played at least 300 minutes court-time in 2015/16 returned for the 2016/17 season with the exception being import Annalise Pickrel who played 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 played in Russia, whilst Jayco Rangers veteran Alison Downie who has the distinction of being the only member of all three of Dandenong Rangers WNBL championship winning teams 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 Malott 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 during that season, making 34 of her 70 attempts for a phenomenal accuracy of 49%.

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During the Jayco Rangers second game in Round 2 at home against Perth Cumming was in blistering form, setting game-highs for points and rebounds with 31 and 12 respectively, whilst also having four assists, ranked second for the Rangers behind Novosel with nine. Steph was the only player to record double figure rebounds in the game and was easily her team’s highest scorer with Novosel being ranked second with 15 points. Cumming playing a pivotal role in the Rangers having a dominant 20 point win, 94-74 against 2015/16 grand finalists Perth with her three point shooting being exceptional, making five of her eight attempts beyond the arc for an outstanding accuracy of 62%. Steph also made six of her 11 two point attempts and all four free throws. In the post-game press conference after being asked “Steph, have you ever had that feeling before in a WNBL game, gee just keep getting me the ball, I am just really feeling it right now?” Steph responded “Well I didn’t really feel like that was the case during the game, it was just that I happened to be the one at the end of all the passes and it was an open shot so I didn’t think twice about shooting it. When you are getting so open through such good ball movement they just go down because you don’t think about it. You are not thinking should I make the extra pass should I have drove that, if it’s open you shoot it and that’s what we are about.”  The outstanding ball movement by the Rangers was capitalised on with great shooting, with the team making 37 of their 77 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 48% and recorded 22 assists.

The hot form of Cumming and the Rangers continued in Round 3 with Cumming making the WNBL team of the week for the second week in a row and Dandenong defeating Townsville by 27 points, 92 to 65 at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. Steph scored a game-high 21 points and was again exceptional with her shooting to make eight of 12 field goals for an accuracy of 66%, making three of her four three-point shots. Cumming recorded an equal game-high six assists along with fellow Rangers co-captain Clydesdale. The Jayco Rangers matched their field goal accuracy of 48% from their previous game, making 38 of their 79 attempts, and recorded a phenomenal 28 assists. In the entire 2015/16 season the Rangers only had two wins of at least 20 points being 32 points against Bendigo in Round 3 and 20 points against Sydney in Round 8. In the first four games of the 2016/17 WNBL season the Rangers had already beaten both of the 2015/16 Grand Finalists by at least 20 points.

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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 in a Saturday night Round 6 game and recorded a comprehensive 19 point victory 82-63.  Cumming earnt her third WNBL team of the week selection for her Round 6 performance against Canberra and was one of only four players to be selected in the team at least three times to that point of the season. Cumming scored a game-high 18 points on seven of 13 shooting from the field for an accuracy of 53%. Steph also had a game-high five assists and five rebounds – ranked equal second for Dandenong.

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In Dandenong’s Round 10 win over Adelaide on the road by 15 points, 79 to 64 Cumming scored 15 points, had seven rebounds and an equal team-high three assists. 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 in Australia. With the Rangers leading by six points with six minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the second quarter Cumming had a hot streak to make the next three baskets of the game, all three pointers to extend Dandenong’s lead to 15 points with five minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the term. 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%. Cumming finished the game with a team-high 22 points, making seven of her 14 field goal attempts and was superb from beyond the arc making four of her five three-pointers for an incredible accuracy of 80%. However Steph’s contribution went far beyond scoring, also having a game-high 11 rebounds, and four assists in a brilliant all-round game. Steph was named the Round 10 WNBL player of the week, becoming the first Ranger to receive that award during the 2016/17 season.

At the time of the Christmas break Dandenong were on top of the WNBL ladder with a record of 11 wins and four losses, however in their first game of 2017 on 8 January the Rangers were defeated by the bottom of the ladder Adelaide Lightning

In the Round 14 game against the Melbourne Boomers on 14 January Cumming was quiet in regulation with six points, after Dandenong trailed by five points with less than a minute to play five points from Novosel, firstly with a three pointer and then with a lay-up sent the game into overtime tied at 56 points apiece.  Steph took over during the first three minutes of overtime to make a lay-up and two three-pointers to give the Jayco Rangers a 10 point lead, the Boomers were held scoreless during this period and only one other Ranger scored – Malott with a two-point jump shot. Malott scored 24 points at a field goal accuracy of 66% to be the second and final Ranger for 2016/17 to be named the WNBL player of the week.

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On the road against her former side the Townsville Fire in Round 18 Steph Cumming played her 250th WNBL game in her 11th WNBL season. At just 26 years of age Steph is well placed to move into the top 10 list for most WNBL game played and possibly even break former Ranger Jess Bibby’s WNBL record of 394 games. Cumming is one of seven players on the Jayco Rangers 2016/17 roster to have played more than 100 WNBL games, along with Amelia Todhunter (187 games), Jacinta Kennedy (181), Sara Blicavs (171), Aimie Clydesdale (114) and Rosie Fadjilevic (114). From the start of the 2015/16 WNBL season onwards to celebrate each time a Rangers player reached a milestone game of 100  WNB games or more including at least 40 games for the Rangers an article comprehensively covering that players career has been published on this site. Below is a link to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers milestone games articles:

https://milestonesandmisses.com/category/jayco-dandenong-rangers-games-milestones/

Before the Round 19 game against Perth the Dandenong Rangers were on a four game losing streak with all losses being to fellow 2016/17 finalists, Perth, Sydney and Townsville twice. In the Jayco Rangers final regular season game of the season on Saturday night 18 February they recorded a comprehensive 22 point victory over fellow finalist Perth Lynx 81-59.  Cumming scored 19 points, shooting at 66% from the field and was phenomenal from long range, making three of her four three-pointers. Steph also had four rebounds and three assists to help the Rangers secure the season series against Perth 3-1. The win over Perth kept Dandenong’s chances alive to finish in second position however they needed other results to their way. Later that night after defeating Perth, Dandenong got a favourable result with Canberra defeating Townsville 90-83. In the final game of the regular season another result went the Jayco Rangers way, with Bendigo defeating Perth 73-72 after a Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe bank jump shot put Bendigo in front by a point with six seconds remaining.

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Dandenong’s brilliant pre-Christmas form together with some favourable results in non-Rangers matches late in the season resulted in the Rangers finishing second on the ladder, earning them home-court advantage for the best of three semi final series against Perth. The Jayco Rangers and Perth Lynx both finished the regular season with a record of 15 wins and nine losses, however the Rangers won the tie-break due to winning the season series between the two clubs 3-1. The Sydney Uni Flames won the minor premiership three games ahead of their nearest rivals, recording 18 wins and six losses. The Townsville Fire who have won the last two WNBL Championships in 2014/15 and 2015/16 complete the top four with a record of 14 wins and 10 losses, whilst Bendigo and Canberra both missed out on a finals position, each recording 13 wins and 11 losses.

The Jayco Rangers have beaten every side in the WNBL at least once in 2016/17, however they have also lost to each side in the WNBL except cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers, given that the Rangers won a game against the Boomers by two points and also recorded an overtime win after trailing by five points with less than a minute remaining in regulation that series could easily have been split two games apiece. The biggest lead Melbourne had over Dandenong in this game was nine points. In three games during 2016/17 the Rangers have won after trailing by more than 12 points, the resilience shown in these games and ability to fight back and get the win proved pivotal in the Jayco Rangers booking a finals berth for the seventh consecutive season.

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The Dandenong Rangers recorded eight wins and four losses at home, the equal second best record along with Sydney, Townsville and Canberra, behind Perth with nine wins and three losses. The Jayco Rangers had seven wins and five losses on the road, giving them the outright second best record on the road behind Sydney who recorded 10 wins and two losses.

Although they face the best home team in the league the Perth Lynx in their semi final series the Rangers can take confidence from recording a convincing 21 point win in Round 3 on Perth’s home court – The Bendat Basketball Centre. Perth’s other losses at home were to Bendigo by 13 points in Round 7 and to the Sydney Uni Flames by 24 points in Round 12. Perth recorded a 10 point win at home against the Rangers in Round 16, however the Rangers have dominated the two games between clubs at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, recording a 20 point win in Round 2 and a 22 point victory in Round 19. Steph was a barometer in the Dandenong vs Perth regular season series, in three wins games Steph scored 31, 22 and 19 points for an average of 24 points per game. In Dandenong’s only loss to Perth at Bendat Basketball Centre Steph was kept scoreless.

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During the 2016/17 regular season Cumming played all 24 games for Dandenong, averaging 16.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 33.7 minutes per game. Steph led the Rangers for points per game and assists, ranked third for rebounds and fifth for total steals. Of the Jayco Rangers to make at least 10 field goals Cumming ranked second for accuracy with 44% – behind Malott with 50%, ranked second for three-point accuracy with 42% – behind Novosel with 48% and was the Rangers most accurate free-throw shooter, having an accuracy of 88%. Of the players that made at least 20 three-pointers during the 2016/17 season Steph ranked equal second in the WNBL for accuracy along with Belinda Snell, behind Sara Graham (56%). Highlighting how accurate her shooting was throughout the season, of the players to make at least 15 free-throws and 15 three-pointers during the 2016/17 season Cumming was the only player to have an accuracy of more than 85% for free-throws and more than 40% for three-pointers, she also ranked equal sixth in the league for free-throws made.

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Steph is one of only two Rangers along with future sister-in-law Sara Blicavs to start every game for the club this season. Nine Dandenong players played more than 230 minutes each in the regular season, with all nine players being used as a starter at least once in 2016/17, the ninth player in the rotation, Rosie Fadljevic started one game in place of Rangers co-captain Aimie Clydesdale who started the other 23 games of the season. 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, form, 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. The starting line-up most used by head-coach Larissa Anderson during the 2016/17 season was Clydesdale, Cumming, Blicavs, Malott and Scherf which was used 13 times, however this line-up last was not used in the last seven games of the season and last started together on 14 January against the Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. Malott and Scherf started 18 and 17 games respectively whilst Novosel started five times and Todhunter and Kennedy started four games each. Besides the core nine player rotation four players have played limited minutes for the Dandenong Rangers in 2016/17, Chloe Bibby, Bree Whatman, Rachel Antoniadou and Saraid Taylor. Bibby and Whatman were starters in the Dandenong Rangers 2016 SEABL Championship team with Antoniadou also being a member of the team.

Three of the four 2016/17 WNBL finalists also made the finals in 2015/16, Townsville, Perth and Dandenong, the only exception being minor premiers the Sydney Flames who last made the finals in 2014/15, being defeated in the preliminary final by Bendigo. The top two sides of 2016/17 – Sydney and Dandenong have a more even spread of scoring, with each club having five players ranked in the top 30 of the WNBL for points per game with the Rangers in this category being Cumming (16.6 points per game), Blicavs (16.0), Malott (11.2), Novosel (11.2) and Clydesdale (8.3). Perth has the leading scorer in the league – Sami Whitcomb who averaged 23.6 points per game during the regular season whilst Townsville have a dominant scorer of their own in Suzy Batkovic who has won four of the past five WNBL MVP’s from 2011/12 to 2015/16 and is averaging 21.3 points per game, ranked second in the league, 3.2 points per game more than the third ranked Mariana Tolo. Perth and Townsville each have four players ranked in the top 30 for points per game. Perth’s players in the top 30 for scoring alongside league leading Whicomb are Carley Mijovic (14.3), Ruth Hamblin (10.6) and Antonia Edmondson (9.5). For tonight’s finals opener against Perth at Dandenong Basketball Stadium starting at 6.30 pm the Rangers are expected to have a starting line-up of Clydesdale, Todhunter, Cumming, Blicavs and Malott. Whilst Todhunter has started only four times in 2016/17 she has started the last two games of the season and the last three head to head games against Perth, being given a defensive role on Whitcomb, in these three games Whitcomb has averaged 17.3 points per game, six points lower than her regular season average. Cumming and Novosel are also likely to spend some time guarding Whitcomb during the semi final series.

Summary and future

After playing two seasons a year – WNBL and SEABL for seven consecutive years from 2010 to 2016 Steph will be taking a season off in 2017 and wont be playing in the SEABL. Early in her season off Steph will be getting married to Kris Blicavs in March 2017. After a season break from playing basketball Steph will play the 2017/18 WNBL season with the Jayco Rangers, her 12th season in the league overall and eighth season with Dandenong.

Cumming has been a star in the SEABL for many seasons, winning three consecutive championships with the Dandenong Rangers from 2010 to 2012 and winning the highest individual honour in the league, the SEABL MVP in 2015 and 2016 whilst playing for the Kilsyth Cobras. Over four SEABL seasons from 2013 to 2016 Cumming played 85 games and averaged 21.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game and shot the ball at above 43% from the field, 34% for three-pointers and 85% from the free-throw line in all four seasons. During her seven season SEABL career to date Cumming has played 139 games, representing four different teams across Victoria. During the seven seasons Steph has played in the SEABL from 2010 to 2016 she is the only player to have won multiple SEABL MVP awards, however 2013 MVP winner Kelly Wilson is like Cumming a two-time winner of the award with Wilson first winning the award in 2009.

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During her 11 season WNBL career Steph Cumming has played a total of 252 WNBL games at three clubs averaging 10.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game and has played in two WNBL Championships – one with the Dandenong Rangers in 2011/12 and one with the Townsville Fire in 2014/15. In all eight seasons since graduating from the AIS Cumming has averaged more than 10 points per game. In six seasons Cumming has had a free-throw accuracy above 85% including three seasons where she has exceeded 90%. Steph has made at least 24 three-pointers in nine of her 11 WNBL season. Cumming has been extremely durable throughout her WNBL career, after playing 12 games as a development player in 2006/07 with Dandenong she played at least 20 games in each of her next seasons from 2007/08 to 2016/17.

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In January 2017 Steph was announced as one of the 25 greatest Jayco Rangers players during their first 25 years in the WNBL and was thoroughly deserving of this honour. The Rangers also named their 10 greatest players of all-time (not in order) and whilst Steph wasn’t included in the top 10, she is contracted to the club for the 2016/17 finals series and the entire 2017/18 WNBL season, giving her time to enhance her standing amongst the greatest Jayco Rangers WNBL players of all-time.

In June 2009 Cumming mentioned in an interview with FIBA on the eve of captaining Australia’s women’s under 19’s team at the World Championships that the player that inspired her the most was Penny Taylor. In January 2017 Cumming broke two-time WNBL MVP Taylor’s record for most points scored in the WNBL for the Jayco Dandenong Rangers, Steph has now amassed a total of 1,915 points during her 157 games for the club. Most people would be surprised that Cumming is the Rangers leading WNBL points scorer of all-time, longevity has been a key factor in breaking this record with 2016/17 being her seventh season with the Jayco Rangers. During her four season second stint with the Rangers from 2009/10 to 2012/13 Cumming scored between 234 points and 340 points in each season. Cumming won the Rangers MVP for a Ranger line-up that missed out on the finals in 2009/10, however in each of the next three seasons she ranked third for total points scored as the Rangers made the finals in each seasons with the Rangers stars being Kathleen MacLeod and Jenna O’Hea (for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons).

When Steph Cumming returned to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for her third stint in 2015/16 two questions were 1) Could she retain her intensity on defense whilst also shouldering more responsibility on the offensive end? and 2) Would she be able to make the step up from starter to star? Steph has answered both these questions resoundingly in the affirmative during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 WNBL seasons. Despite having increased responsibility on offense Cumming played the best defensive season of her career in 2015/16 to win the WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award. During 2015/16 Cumming set new career highs for points and assists per game, marks she has surpassed during the 2016/17 season to set career highs for points, rebounds and assists per game. During per past two seasons Cumming has well and truly established herself as one of the top 10 players in the WNBL with her mix of shooting accuracy, outstanding defense, durability, athleticism, passing and scoring output. It is a significant milestone to reach 250 WNBL games as Steph Cumming achieved earlier this month, given that Steph has played the best basketball of her career in the past 18 months and is only 26 years old she is bound to achieve several more milestones during her brilliant career.

 

By Dean Andrews

 

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs/

2 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs/

3 http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/08/olym/men/news/inte/p/newsid/30941/FE_news_inteArti.html

4 http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/sport/local-sport/the-townsville-fire-score-resigning-coup-by-clinching-signature-of-stephanie-cumming-in-wnbl/news-story/d5a56bea016b7054034f2febccb95e00

5 http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/sport/local-sport/the-townsville-fire-score-resigning-coup-by-clinching-signature-of-stephanie-cumming-in-wnbl/news-story/d5a56bea016b7054034f2febccb95e00

6 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/steph-cumming-is-back-in-melbourne-to-play-seabl-for-kilsyth-and-wnbl-at-dandenong/news-story/ea8697bf388bdd843b6ce22ce3f64795

7 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/steph-cumming-is-back-in-melbourne-to-play-seabl-for-kilsyth-and-wnbl-at-dandenong/news-story/ea8697bf388bdd843b6ce22ce3f64795

8 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/steph-cumming-is-back-in-melbourne-to-play-seabl-for-kilsyth-and-wnbl-at-dandenong/news-story/ea8697bf388bdd843b6ce22ce3f64795

9 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/dandenong-rangers-star-steph-cumming-up-for-wnbl-home-return-on-friday-night-20151015-gk9u3t.html

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

11 http://wnbl.com.au/201516-defensive-player-of-the-year/

12 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/outer-east/sport/kilsyth-star-steph-cumming-finds-time-amid-busy-year-to-win-consecutive-seabl-mvp-awards/news-story/8f87a7dde49540028ce59d44b5e17150

13 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/outer-east/sport/kilsyth-star-steph-cumming-finds-time-amid-busy-year-to-win-consecutive-seabl-mvp-awards/news-story/8f87a7dde49540028ce59d44b5e17150

14 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs/

15 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/outer-east/sport/kilsyth-star-steph-cumming-finds-time-amid-busy-year-to-win-consecutive-seabl-mvp-awards/news-story/8f87a7dde49540028ce59d44b5e17150

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