On Monday night 17 January Melbourne Boomers captain Cayla George scored the 4,000th point of her WNBL career. George commenced the game against the Perth Lynx on 3,983 points, a made three pointer with six minutes and 19 seconds remaining in the last quarter increased George’s career tally to exactly 4,000 points. George made a game-high five three-pointers from 10 attempts and finished the three point victory against Perth at Selkirk Stadium with 19 points and a career total of 4,002 points in the WNBL.
George is the 12th player in WNBL history to reach the significant milestone of 4,000 career points and ranks first in this category among active players ahead of fellow frontcourt player Abby Bishop who ranks 14th overall with (3,919 points). The top 15 scorers in WNBL history as at 20 January 2022 are listed below:
Most career points in the WNBL
Rank Points Player
1 5,843 Suzy Batkovic
2 5,823 Rachael Sporn
3 5,204 Shelley Sandie
4 4,770 Belinda Snell
5 4,619 Jessica Bibby
6 4,517 Robyn Maher
7 4,250 Lucille Bailie
8 4,199 Kristi Harrower
9 4,161 Karen Dalton
10 4,044 Samantha Thornton
11 4,041 Rohanee Cox
12 4,002 Cayla George*
13 3,953 Michelle Timms
14 3,919 Abby Bishop*
15 3,814 Lauren Jackson
* Active players
Point tallies for the players above are from https://wnbl.basketball/league/player-and-team-records/ 1
The total for active players George and Bishop have been updated to include points scored during the 2021/22 WNBL season and are current as at 20 January 2022
Cayla George making a jump shot for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers against the Southside Flyers at Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville on 15 January 2022
To move into the top 10 on the WNBL’s All-time scoring list 32 year-old George requires another 43 points to overtake Cox (4,041 points) and Thornton (4,044).
During 2021/22 193 centimetre tall George is playing her fourth consecutive WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and 14th season overall, amassing 293 WNBL games to date comprised of 54 for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), 46 for Adelaide Lightning, 46 for Logan Thunder, 78 for Townsville Fire and 69 for Melbourne.
Apart from her debut WNBL season forward/centre George has averaged more than 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in every WNBL season. In 2014/15 George averaged a career-high 17.4 points per game – ranked fourth in the league.
From 2014 to the present George is one of only two players along with point guard Tessa Lavey to represent the Australian Opals at all four major championships comprised of the 2014 World Cup in Turkey, 2018 World Cup in Spain, 2016 Rio Olympic Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. In three of the four major championships George has ranked in the top for the Opals in rebounding with the exception being the 2016 Olympic Games.
As well as playing in the WNBL and representing Australia on the international stage George has also played in international leagues, playing three seasons in the WNBA and three seasons in Europe.
In November 2019 George set-up a business caylageorge.com to mentor young female basketball players both on and off the court.
George’s basketball career in the WNBL, WNBA, Europe and with the Australian Opals is covered in more detail below as well as her business mentoring young female basketball players.
Early life and junior career
Cayla Francis was born on 1 May 1989 in the South Australian town of Mount Barker, located 34 kilometres south-east of Adelaide. Cayla grew up on a farm until her parents separated when she was eight years old, she then lived with her mum Andrea and sister Ebony.
As a junior Cayla played basketball for the Eastern Mavericks and represented South Australia at every under-age level, mainly representing South Australia Country however in one year she played for South Australia Metro.
During 2007 George represented Australia at both the Under 21 and Under 19 World Championships, ranking in the top two for Australia for rebounds and blocked shots at both tournaments.
WNBL career from 2005/06 to 2011/12
From 2005/06 to 2011/12 George played seven consecutive WNBL seasons comprised of three seasons for the AIS, two seasons for Adelaide Lightning and two seasons for Logan Thunder.
With the Australian Institute of Sport George made her WNBL debut at 16 years of age in 2005/06 and averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in her debut season. In her second WNBL season at 17 years of age Cayla was one of the revelations of 2006/07, ranking in the top five of the league in several categories – third for rebounds per game, second for defensive rebounds and fourth for blocked shots.
During George’s third season with the AIS in 2007/08 she averaged a double-double comprised of 14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game to lead the league in defensive rebounds per game and ranked second for total rebounds.
On her experience at the Australian Institute of Sport and the impact it had on her Cayla told Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “I definitely was pretty nervous going into the AIS but I certainly was really excited to receive that scholarship, it is definitely something that I wanted to achieve and I wanted to move with the best athlete’s around Australia to train and be a part of what everyone else was doing and try and work together collectively to win medals for the junior Australian teams and also compete in the WNBL and try and place a platform while at the AIS to compete as a professional, post AIS scholarship so it was certainly an exciting time. It was tough, I was young, having to do my own washing, to not have mum there that was tough but we had a really great crew there in my era and I am still really great friends with a big chunk of them now. Everything is there on a platter for you so you either take it or you don’t and I feel like I really utilised my opportunity there, I was there for almost three years and have no regrets. I certainly thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The AIS was an incredible experience and definitely set a really solid foundation for me moving forward as a professional.”
After graduating from the AIS George spent the 2008/09 and 2009/10 WNBL seasons in her home state of South Australia playing for the Adelaide Lightning. George won Adelaide’s MVP Award in 2009/10 and ranked in the top five of the WNBL for rebounds per game in both seasons with the club.
On her two seasons playing for the Adelaide Lightning Cayla commented “It was nice to be home for a little bit after being away for a few years at the AIS. I loved my time in Adelaide, I loved being home with my nanna and pop a little bit. I would go see them often and that is probably the last time I lived in Adelaide to be honest back then. It was an enjoyable couple of seasons with a couple of close friends that I have met throughout my journey. Great experience as a young girl thrust into a starting 4/5 role after finishing my three years in the WNBL team for the AIS. I certainly lived for that pressure, I can’t really remember feeling too daunted by it, I just remember accepting the challenge and enjoying that there was a lot of expectation of me. I live for that pressure because without that pressure basketball probably wouldn’t be as fun and I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard to where I have been able to get to if that makes sense.”
After two seasons playing for Adelaide Cayla joined rival WNBL club the Logan Thunder, located approximately 45 kilometres south of Brisbane in South East Queensland. In George’s first season with Logan in 2010/11 the club made the finals for the first time in their third season. In Logan’s first ever finals victory George recorded a double-double comprised of 14 points and 11 rebounds in a road victory against the Dandenong Rangers 83-73. During 2010/11 George led the WNBL in total rebounds and defensive rebounds per game. In 2001/12 George ranked in the WNBL’s top three for total rebounds per game, defensive rebounds and blocked shots.
Playing in European leagues
Since debuting in the WNBL during the 2005/06 season George has played 14 of a possible 17 seasons. In the three Australian summers that George didn’t play in the WNBL she played in Europe, playing for French clubs Nantes Rezé and Pay d’Aix Basket in 2012/13 and 2013/14 and played in a Hungarian Championship with Uniqa Sopron in 2016/17. In all three seasons playing in Europe George averaged more than 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
George commented on her two seasons playing in France “So going into Europe was always something that I wanted to do so to get thrown into the deep end, I think I was 22, 23 when I went to Europe with Tolo, we were on the same team together, so to have another Aussie with me doing our first European experience together, it made it a lot easier. I just wanted to experience a different style of basketball, the European style and really challenge myself in that sense. I feel like collectively those two seasons combined allowed me to just really gain some international experience, mentally, physically just to adjust and shift my game a little bit for the better and then I came back to Townsville after my two years in Europe and I felt like I was a lot better for it.”
George contributed to Uniqa Sopron winning the club’s 11th Hungarian championship in 2016/17, in the final Uniqa Sopron defeated Szekszard three games to one in the final. During 2016/17 George led Uniqua in rebounding and blocked shots and ranked fourth for scoring.
WNBL career with Townsville Fire from 2014/15 to 2017/18
In 2014/15 George returned to the WNBL, joining the Townsville Fire and forming a dominant front-court duo with Suzy Batkovic who led the league in scoring and rebounding in 2013/14 to win her third consecutive WNBL MVP Award.
On club debut for the Townsville Fire in Round 1 2014/15 George made an instant impression in a home game against Bendigo Spirit. After Townsville trailed Bendigo by three points at three quarter time George gained the ascendancy for the Fire by scoring 12 points in the final quarter and also blocked a three-point attempt in the dying seconds when Bendigo attempted to tie the scores and send the game into overtime. Townsville won the game 70-67 and George was named the league’s Player of the Week for Round 1. On her first game with Townsville Fire George commented “Obviously the process going into any season is that every game is important, let’s get as many wins as possible, let’s get ourselves in the best possible position. Bendigo were up in Townsville, up there it is really hard to win for opposition teams. We wanted to make sure that it was a fortress and start off the season right. I guess I turned the jets on in the fourth quarter just trying to prove a point that here I am and make a bit of a mark on the league and I think that last block that I got was against Belinda Snell because they got her the ball to shoot a three and I blocked Snelly. But yeah it was an incredible game to be a part of and it solidified my mark in that Townsville Fire team that season and it didn’t take me too long after that game one I really settled in and felt really comfortable for the rest of the season.”
Townsville finished the 2014/15 regular season on top of the ladder with 17 wins and five losses and progressed to play Bendigo Spirit in the Grand Final for the third season in a row. In the 2014/15 Grand Final Townsville defeated Bendigo 75-65 to win the club’s first WNBL Championship. In the process Townsville become the first club based in North Queensland to win a National Championship.
Cayla played all 24 games for Townsville in 2014/15, averaging 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 blocked shots. Cayla ranked third in the WNBL for rebounds per game just behind Abby Bishop (10.6) and Batkovic (10.5), led the league for offensive rebounds, ranked third for blocked shots and defensive rebounds and fourth for scoring behind Bishop, Dandenong Rangers forward Penny Taylor and Batkovic. George finished runner-up in the 2014/15 WNBL MVP Award on 107 votes behind Canberra Capitals centre Abby Bishop on 135 votes and just ahead of team-mate Batkovic on 105 votes. Cayla was selected in the 2014/15 WNBL All-Star five along with Bishop, Taylor, Kelsey Griffen and current Melbourne Boomers teammate Tess Madgen.
In May 2020 George commented to Milestones and Misses on her 2014/15 season with the Townsville Fire “It made me feel that, me going to Europe was the best thing for me to do for those two years and get that international experience and it not only helps your on-court game but it helps you become really resilient with a lot of things, you have got to deal with a lot of different scenarios over there, travel and English speaking or lack of. So it really built up my resilience and I handled a lot of adversity over there. Coming back over here a little bit older, a bit more mature on and off the court so I feel like that season to come in for me and be solid and be really consistent and for me my mindset is never oh I am chasing that MVP, like that’s never in my entire career been ever my mindset. It has always been like how can I help this team win, what do I need to do and so they already had a superstar in Suzy inside so it was about working with her, complementing her, and obviously just playing really well collectively and having fun. I am always about having fun and having a good culture so for that year to come runner-up in the MVP was just a bonus to how it went for us as a team.”
In March 2015 Cayla signed with the Townsville Fire for the 2015/16 season. On 8 May 2015 Cayla married her partner, Kailou George who is from Townsville.
Townsville finished the 2015/16 regular season on top of the ladder with 17 wins and seven losses to win their second successive minor premiership. After losing the 2015/16 major semi final at home against Perth 72-91 Townsville rebounded strongly to win the WNBL’s first ever best of three games WNBL Grand Final series, defeating Perth two games to nil. During 2015/16 George led the WNBL in rebounds, ranked fourth for blocked shots and finished seventh in the league MVP Award with her team-mate Batkovic winning the WNBL MVP Award for the fourth time of her career.
In George’s return to the WNBL with Townsville Fire in 2017/18 after playing for Uniqua Sopran in 2016/17 she was outstanding to again be named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 1, emulating her league return in 2014/15. In Round 1 of the 2017/18 WNBL season Townsville played on the road at the State Basketball Centre against the Melbourne Boomers who had Australian Opal Liz Cambage playing at centre. George scored 17 points and took a phenomenal 22 rebounds including 20 defensive and made three of her six three-pointers in Townsville’s 63-54 victory.
Townsville finished the 2017/18 regular season third on the ladder with a record of 14 wins and seven losses. Townsville defeated Sydney two games to nil in a semi final series and then defeated the Melbourne Boomers two games to one in the Grand Final series to win their third WNBL Championship in four seasons, with George being a part of all three titles.
On Townsville’s three championships and whether she had a favourite Cayla commented “Yeah honestly, my favourite championship was probably still the first one just because of the pressure the Fire had on them to finally get over the line and it was just really overwhelming and amazing. The first one was really special and probably my favourite even though they are all quite highly regarded obviously. My first two championships with Townsville, straight after that I went to Hungary for a year and competed in the Euroleague and I won a Hungarian championship and then the following year I came back and won the championship again with the Fire so four years in a row I won championships which was really quite a blessing and so I came quite accustomed to winning championships. but back to Townsville and the championships, yeah, the first one was probably my favourite.”
Playing in the WNBA
From 2015 to 2018 George spent three seasons playing in the WNBA. In 2015 and 2017 George played for Phoenix Mercury and was coached by fellow Australian and current Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello. George played for the Dallas Wings in 2018 alongside fellow Australian Liz Cambage.
In a road game for Phoenix Mercury against the Tulsa Shock on 13 September, 2015 George recorded her first double-double in the WNBA, scoring 14 points and taking 12 rebounds.
George commented “The WNBA is different, it’s different style it’s just different challenges to any other league. there are some amazing, fierce competitors, it is the best league in the world. You are going up against tough, bigger bodies with quicker bodies every night. The travelling is crazy, there is no private jets it is all commercial.”
During 2016 George’s major focus was to make the Australian Opals team for the 2016 Rio Olympics and to maximise her chances of making the team she didn’t return to Phoenix for the 2016 WNBA season. This enable George to be available for all Australian Opals training camps and tours.
George played her second WNBA season with Phoenix in 2017. In two seasons with Phoenix George played 66 of a possible 68 regular season games. Phoenix made the playoffs in George’s two seasons with the club, being defeated 2-0 in the conference finals by the Minnesota Lynx in 2015 and lost in the semi-finals to the Los Angeles Sparks 3-0 in 2017.
In early February 2018 Phoenix traded George to the Connecticut Sun for the 21st overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft. After training camp was completed George was the last player cut by Connecticut. Whilst the 2018 season was in progress the Dallas Wings signed George as a free agent. During 2018 George had an extended run being teammates with Liz Cambage, during the 2018 WNBA season with the Dallas Wings and either side of the WNBA season with the Australian Opals at the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup. Dallas finished the 2018 regular season fifth in the Western Conference and eighth overall to secure the last play-off berth with a record of 15 wins and 19 losses. In the first round of the play-offs the Dallas Wings played a single elimination game against the Phoenix Mercury on the road and were defeated 83-101.
George has played 95 games in the WNBA including playoffs comprised of 71 games for the Phoenix Mercury in 2015 and 2017 and 24 games for the Dallas Wings in 2018. On her three seasons playing in the WNBA George commented in May 2020 “Really enjoyed my time in the WNBA, whether I go back there or not it is what it is, I would have no idea, I haven’t completely closed the door but yeah, we will see how life plays out, but also I am forever a WNBA player, three seasons deep, great experiences over there, met some great people, it is the best league in the world and I am glad I got the opportunity to tick that off my list of goals that I wanted to achieve back when I was a teen.”
Representing the Australian Opals
From 2008 to 2013 George made some appearances for Australia’s national team the Opals, frequently against New Zealand including at Oceania Championships however she didn’t represent Australia at any major championships.
George played all six games for Australia at the 2014 FIBA World Championships held in Turkey from September 28 to October 6 which culminated in Australia defeating Turkey 74-44 in the bronze medal game. At the tournament George ranked third for the Opals for rebounds per game, equal first for blocked shots, equal second for three-pointers made, fifth for scoring and ninth for minutes played.
The Opals were strongly tested in the group stage at the 2016 Rio Olympics and although they won all five games, in three of these games they trailed by a double-figure margin before fighting back to win. The Opals were overwhelming favourites for their quarter final against Serbia but were defeated 71-73, ending their tournament. George played five of the Opals six games and averaged 8.8 minutes court-time per game.
On the quarter final loss to Serbia George commented in May 2020 “Tournament play, had probably one of the worst games we had all tournament and Serbia played out of their skin and beat us by two. Tournament play, you gotta be ready, yeah that really hurt, still to this day it really sucks, I hate talking about how at the Rio Olympics we didn’t medal, first team in two decades to not medal, I hate, I HATE that I have to say that I have been a part of that but also, no I am proud that I am a part of that because I am also a part of the change in the next cycle where we won a silver medal in 2018 and going for a medal in Tokyo, it is all part of the journey. It hurt, that’s why I don’t like to talk about it, because it is hurt. The sacrifices and the lifelong dream of going to an Olympics and in that moment I couldn’t even cheer, I was on the bench in the final minutes of the game and I couldn’t even cheer. I was so nervous and scared of what actually ended up happening that I couldn’t even cheer, I was in shock that we were even in a position where that could actually happen, and then it actually happened. It was devastating, devastating, still is devastating because we had a great team that year. It is hard to talk about, it is frustrating to talk about but all things are done and if anything just used as fuel for future things and has been already because silver medallists.”
George was part of the Australian Opals starting line-up at the 2018 Commonwealth Games along with Katie Ebzery, Steph Talbot, Jenna O’Hea and Liz Cambage. Australia were dominant, easily winning all five games played in Queensland during April to win the Gold Medal. In the semi final victory against New Zealand George scored 18 points, made six of her eight field goal attempts including all four three-pointers. Australia defeated England 99-55 in the Gold medal game, George scored an equal game-high 16 points and took 10 rebounds to be the only player in the gold medal game that registered a double-double.
At the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain from 22 to 30 September George was a member of the Opals leadership group along with Ebzery and Cambage, Jenna O’Hea was named Opals captain. On being voted into the Opals leadership group George told Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “Again, super humbling, being an Opal in itself is just so overwhelmingly amazing and I can’t even describe the feeling of being a part of that legacy that had been brought two decades before us with some incredible names you know, I could sit here and name all the names but just incredible women that have gone before us to create this legacy. So to be a part of that is so incredible and then by your teammates named part of the leadership group was just so humbling and a place that years ago wasn’t really on my radar, it was just make that team, by all means make that team, I don’t care if you are the 12th man, the fifth man, I just need to be a part of that team somehow, some way, eventually got that and then thrust into a leadership role which I thrived in, I loved it, I loved having my teammates around me in a good headspace, I loved checking in on everyone, I loved making sure we were all on the same page, I loved culturally instilling some really good vibes just to make sure that we are successful on and off the court and that we have fun doing it.”
Throughout the 2018 World Cup George was a member of the Australian Opals starting line-up alongside Ebzery, Bec Allen, Talbot and Cambage. The Opals won each of their first four matches by at least 18 points to progress to a semi final against host nation Spain.
Australia started their semi final against host nation Spain in scintillating fashion to lead 21-6 with three minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Spain outscored Australia 52-29 in the next two and a bit quarters to lead 58-50 at three quarter time. The Opals fought back to level the scores at 64 points apiece with three minutes remaining in the game. George scored the next five points of the game comprised of two free-throws and a corner three to gain the ascendancy for the Opals, making two foul shots with two minutes and 56 seconds left followed by a corner three-pointer with 2 minutes and 12 seconds remaining to extend Australia’s lead to five points, 69-64. Australia won the semi final 72-66 after dominating the final quarter 22-8.
It was the first time that Australia had progressed to a gold medal game at a major championship since they played the United States of America in the final at the 2008 Olympic Games, 10 years later USA were again the Opals opponents. In the gold medal game Australia trailed USA 27-35 at half-time. USA dominated the third quarter 26-11 and defeated Australia 73-56, resulting in the USA winning the gold medal and Australia receiving the silver medal. At the 2018 World Cup George ranked second for Australia for rebounds behind Cambage and third for assists behind Talbot and Ebzery.
On the 2018 World Cup semi final against Spain George commented “Well they say at an international event a quarter final or a semi final in front of the host nation is one of the hardest things to do so, yeah it was tough to have 8,000 fans booing us, I was really fortunate to be able to hit a couple of really big free-throws down the stretch and I remember as I was at the line and everyone is screaming at me in Spanish I heard nothing, I heard nothing and it has never happened to me again, it had never happened to me before but I completely was so focussed, that pressure was so high and I was so focussed that we got this game that I did not hear anything and I swished both of them and then I think not long after that I had a really great assist from Bec Allen because Liz was doubled inside, my man went and helped off cos Liz was right under the basket, I was naked on the wing right in front of our bench and I got to shoot a huge three that eventually kind of solidified our lead with a minute or two to go and helped us kind of solidify the win so that was probably the biggest game I have ever been a part of. Just an incredible experience and even to talk about it with some of the girls we still get a bit emotional and teary eyed because from where everyone’s journey is different.”
Due to the coronavirus the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were postponed by 52 weeks and commenced on 23 July, 2021. On 15 July 2021 Liz Cambage withdrew from the Opals team for the Tokyo Olympics citing mental health concerns.
In the Opals opening game of the Tokyo Olympics George was a member of Australia’s starting line-up along with Mitchell, Ebzery, Allen and Magbegor. The Opals lost their first two games of the Tokyo Olympics to Belgium 70-85 and China 74-76.
The Opals needed to win their third and final Group C game against Puerto Rico by at least 24 points to qualify for the quarter finals. On Episode 18 of Women with Drive hosted by Boomers forward Lou Brown on 12 November 2021 George commented “We are obviously going to beat them by around 25, 30 points, very much capable of beating them by that I should say. Going into the game it was like, OK, it’s a process, just be up by this much every quarter, we’re fine. But then as soon as the ball went up and they scored the first basket I was like OH MY GOSH WE’RE DOWN. I panicked and I couldn’t even play. You could probably tell but me and Ezi had to get subbed out first because I think both of us were a bit panicked.”
At half-time the Opals led Puerto Rico by a solitary point 45-44. On the start of the second half George told Women with Drive “It was just like if we don’t settle we are not going to make it to the quarters. I just found a different level of focus and thank goodness because it was tough to battle with that first part of the game. Had to compose and find a way. It was definitely really fun to play in, those type of games where I just get so hyped and the team’s hyped and it is such an emotional roller-coaster and there is nothing quite like it an Olympic Games, it is just a whole different level of adrenaline.”
Australia dominated the second half 51-25 to just meet the target, defeating Puerto Rico by 27 points, 96-69 and advanced to the quarter finals. George was influential in the Opals reaching their target, scoring 16 points in the second half. George finished the game with 19 points – ranked second for the Opals behind Tolo with 26 points, made eight of 17 field goals at an accuracy of 47.1% and made three of six three-pointers, Cayla also took seven rebounds and made five assists.
The United States of America outscored Australia in the opening quarter of their quarter final 26-12 and went on to defeat the Opals 55-79. Against the USA George scored 11 points – ranked second for the Opals behind Mitchell with 14 points and took an equal team-high seven rebounds.
At the Tokyo Olympic Games George was superb, averaging 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 26.8 minutes court-time per game. Cayla led the Australian Opals for scoring and rebounding per game, ranked second for minutes played, equal second for steals and third for assists.
On 26 March 2020 it was announced that Sydney would host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball from 23 September to 3 October with 12 teams competing in the tournament.
When asked “Another major event, the 2022 FIBA World Cup is being held in Sydney, what sort of impact do you think that is going to have on women’s basketball in Australia?” Cayla responded “I hope a big impact, I hope that it really allows the Australian community to grasp the Opals and have a better understanding of how good we really are and have been the past two decades. I hope that it can really just showcase not only us as the Opals but how great women’s basketball is internationally, there will be the best players in the world competing in our home country, like it is just ridiculous. The opportunity to play in an event like this would be incredible and something that is certainly on my radar but I think for the community, the Australian community to get around it would be super important and I think necessary, like how could you not, if you are a supporter of basketball or just a supporter of sport I think you will enjoy these games, they’re so entertaining, they’re high level, high IQ, athleticism, passion, like oh my gosh. I’m excited for people to have a real look at how this sport goes because it is an incredible sport and we are fierce, female, elite athlete’s so I have no doubt they will enjoy it, they just need to grasp it which I am hoping that you know the media and the community do, because you can’t be what you can’t see.”
On 18 January 2022 George was named in the Australian Opals 16 player squad for a training camp held in Sydney from 31 January to 4 February. After the training camp the Opals 12 player team for the FIBA Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament to be held in Serbia from 10-13 February will be named. George is the only member of the squad that has represented the Opals in the past four major championships from the 2014 World Cup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
On playing for the Opals George comments “Honestly, playing for the Opals is like my favourite thing to do ever, wearing the green and gold is something that is just like so humbling and so rewarding and it is just the biggest adrenaline rush ever, especially when there is so much pressure on the Opals because of the legacy before us and I love that pressure, I love that I am a part of that legacy, I love that we have expectations on us and yes that can sometimes be really daunting but that pressure, when you succeed with that type of pressure on you it is just like euphoria, it is just incredible, back in 2018 when we won the silver medal, when we beat Spain to make the gold medal game, like that type of euphoria.”
In June 2020 Milestones and Misses published a short documentary on Cayla George:
WNBL career with the Melbourne Boomers from 2018/19 to the current 2021/22 season
In March 2018 George signed with the Melbourne Boomers, on joining the Boomers Cayla commented “I just decided it was time for a new challenge for me. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Guy Molloy and Melbourne the city is obviously one of the best in Australia so I wanted to come down to the Big Smoke and just challenge myself in a new environment, new team.” Molloy was in his sixth consecutive season as the Boomers head coach in 2018/19 and 11th season overall as a head coach in the league, having previously coached the Canberra Capitals for the 1989 season and the WAIS Breakers for four seasons from 1993 to 1996. In February 2018 Molloy was appointed the head coach of New Zealand women’s basketball team – The Tall Ferns.
George was one of three players from the Australian Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup that joined the Boomers for the 2018/19 season along with Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot. Shooting guard Maddie Garrick and forwards Jenna O’Hea and Kalani Purcell returned from the Boomers 2017/18 team and in the off-season the club also recruited American import point guard Lindsay Allen.
In Round 6, 2018/19 George scored 16 points and had nine rebounds in a victory over the ladder leading Perth Lynx in a road game at the Bendat Basketball Centre. Later in the round Cayla registered a double–double against her former side the Townsville Fire with 17 points and 10 rebounds along with three assists and three blocks in a home game at the State Basketball Centre.
Melbourne recorded 15 wins and six losses to finish the regular season in second place, one game behind the minor premiers, the University of Canberra Capitals and two games ahead of the Adelaide Lightning and Perth Lynx in third and fourth position respectively. Melbourne lost their semi final series to Adelaide 0-2, being defeated 60-76 in game 1 at the State Basketball Centre and 92-100 in game 2 at Titanium Arena in Adelaide. In 2018/19 George ranked sixth in the WNBL for rebounds per game and equal sixth for blocked shots.
In an article written by Caden Helmers for the Canberra Times in September 2019 Ezi Magbegor spoke of the influence her team-mates including George had on her, saying “I have been surrounded by so many professionals with the Opals girls, the Canberra Capitals and then the Melbourne Boomers as well. I have definitely been exposed to people who are professionals, and I have learnt a lot from them on and off the court, and learnt how to be a professional. I’m pretty grateful to be surrounded by people I am able to learn from. There is so many people I can learn from, in particular Cayla George. I play with her at the Boomers as well so being able to learn from her is great, she is such a great leader and a great person as well. I’m lucky to be following in her footsteps and learning from her.”2
O’Hea and Talbot joined the Southside Flyers and Adelaide Lightning respectively for the 2019/20 season. On the eve of the WNBL season George was named as Melbourne Boomers co-captain along with Garrick. On Episode 18 of Women with Drive in November 2021 host Lou Brown asked “Can you tell me about your leadership style, and your approach to being a leader for the Boomers and in the WNBL?” George responded “For the Boomers I just want to be a really approachable leader, one that shows accountability and making sure everyone keeps each other accountable. I feel like the finger pointing culture is really toxic so as much as I want to be ‘hey Lou get that rebound next time’ I want you to be like ‘hey Cayla box-out next time’, you know what I mean. I want the accountability to be able go both ways because I am forever learning, I am never going to stop and I don’t know everything about the game but I do have some experience and probably some more experience then someone who is younger.”
“I don’t have a strategy, and I have got to be like this as a leader, it’s just like this is how I am and this is what I bring and let’s get it done and I kind of roll with it naturally, and that’s the way that I feel good doing it. I don’t like to be an over-thinker, I‘ll just try to be as natural as possible and for the most part I think I get it right.”
In a Round 2, 74-70 victory at the State Basketball Centre against the Bendigo Spirit George scored a game-high 24 points making 10 of her 16 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 62.5%, took a game-high 12 rebounds, had five assists and a game-high three blocks.
George played her 250th WNBL game in a victory on the road against her former side the Townsville Fire on Sunday 27 October in Round 3. On reaching 250 WNBL games George commented to wnbl.basketball “Honestly, it was a real honour to play 250 in this league, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play in multiple leagues around the world but I always love playing at home in front of my family and friends, and I love playing here at the Boomers. I love the culture that we have here and the group that we’ve got together this year is really special.”3
In a video posted on 15 November 2019 by the Melbourne Boomers “Cayla George on her journey to becoming a professional basketball player” Cayla commented “I feel like being a professional you have to be adaptable. I like to think that’s something I am quite good at. Whatever role a team needs me to play, if you need me to be more of a leader, not play as many minutes or be a starter, whatever you need from me, I’ll do my best to be that. To be able to fit into teams in Europe, in America, here, you don’t know what your coach is going to expect from you, you’ve got to be able to adapt to certain things, on the run, in games too.”
On 12 January 2020 Melbourne Boomers power forward/centre Cayla George became the third player in WNBL history to take 2,500 rebounds in their career, joining Rachel Sporn and Suzy Batkovic in this select group.
On being ranked third on the WNBL’s all-time rebounding list behind Sporn and Batkovic Cayla said “Yeah, super humbling, as before I have said I don’t go out there and crash rebounds and go ‘yes one step closer to beating those girls on the all-time leaders list’ (laughs), I just go out there and chase rebounds you know, probably more defensive then offensive because I want to grab the defensive rebounds and go down the offensive end (laughs). Sometimes I pretend I am a guard on safety on offense. Yeah, look it is humbling, all the hard work that I have put in place, all those hard times, that cliché saying, ‘the blood, sweat and tears’. You lack back and go oh gosh, I’m third all-time, that is just incredible, like Cayla, like look at what you have achieved, it’s cool right. I don’t play for that but it is a cool thing to be able to show my kids. The legacy that I am leaving on-court, but I truly would like to have a bigger legacy off-court once I walk away from the game.”
Against Townsville at the State Basketball Centre in Round 11 George scored a season-high 27 points, making 11 of her 16 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 68.8% in the 77-61 victory.
In the Boomers final regular season game of the 2019/20 season against the Perth Lynx George fell just short of recording a triple-double, scoring 24 points, took 12 rebounds and had nine assists in just 25 minutes and 49 seconds court-time whilst also having three steals. George set a game-high for assists and equal game-highs for scoring, rebounds and steals. In the 104-75 victory at the State Basketball Centre George made eight of her 14 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 57.1% and made three of her six three-pointers.
The Boomers finished third at the end of the regular season with 15 wins and six losses, the same record as the second placed University of Canberra Capitals, two wins behind the minor premiers – the Southside Flyers and three wins ahead of the fourth placed Adelaide Lightning. Due to winning the regular season split 2-1 the Capitals had home-court advantage in the semi final series against the Boomers which proved critical, the home side won each semi final and Canberra defeated the Boomers two games to one.
During 2019/20 George played all 24 games for the Melbourne Boomers, averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.4 blocks and 31.9 minutes per game. George led the Boomers for total points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots in 2019/20 and ranked second for steals, just two behind Garrick. Of the players that played at least five games in 2019/20 George ranked sixth in the WNBL for rebounds and steals per game, fourth for blocked shots, equal 12th for assists and 15th for scoring to be the only player in the league that ranked in the top 15 in all five of these categories which highlights her versatility.
George was named in the WNBL team of the week 4 times in 2019/20 – Rounds 2, 6, 11 and 16 and polled 70 votes in the league’s MVP award to finish third overall behind the UC Capitals Kia Nurse (94 votes) and Adelaide Lightning’s Brianna Turner (88). George was also named in the All-WNBL second team, won the Melbourne Boomers MVP award and received the award for being the Boomers members Player of the season. After receiving the Michele Timms Medal for being the Deakin Melbourne Boomers MVP George commented “Honestly I wish I could break it up into 12 small pieces and give it to all of my teammates because this might sound cliche but this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons for me. I love creating a good headspace for people around me and getting to embrace that role this year with Maddie, I’ve really loved it and I felt as though I really thrived in that leadership role this year. I’ve felt so confident and been in such a great headspace this season. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”4
In 15 of her games during the 2019/20 WNBL season Cayla had at least four assists including eight of her last 10 games in 2020 when the Boomers usual starting point guard Lindsay Allen missed several games due to a knee injury.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to recent seasons and imports weren’t eligible to play in the league. All eight WNBL clubs were located in North Queensland for the duration of the 2020 WNBL season which was played in three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November with each team scheduled to play 14 regular season games, however this later got reduced to 13 games for each team due to COVID-19 issues during the season. The top four teams contested a four game final series with each final being a single game rather than a three-game series and the Grand Final was played on 20 December.
The Melbourne Boomers had a stable roster with seven of the 10 players that averaged at least seven minutes court-time per game in 2019/20 returning for the 2020 WNBL season. The Boomers three Australian starters from 2019/20 in Magbegor, George and Garrick all returned in 2020 along with four Zealand Tall Ferns players in Kalani Purcell, Stella Beck, Antonia Farnworth, and Penina Davidson. Lindsay Allen and Sophie Cunningham weren’t able to return due to being imports. Three recruits were part of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers core rotation in 2020 – Tess Madgen, Ashleigh Karaitiana and Izzy Wright (nee Chilcott).
Against the Southside Flyers in the Melbourne Boomers second game of the 2020 WNBL season George scored an equal game-high 24 points, made nine of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 56%, three of five three-pointers, took eight rebounds and made four assists in the Boomers 89-72 victory at Townsville Stadium on 14 November.
In a low-scoring game George scored a game-high 25 points – 10 more than the second ranked player for the game and made 12 of 24 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50% and blocked three shots in the Boomers 62-56 victory against Perth Lynx at Mackay Multi Sports Stadium on 16 November. George was selected in the WNBL’s Team of the Round for Round 1.
During a 91-51 victory against Adelaide Lightning on 24 November at Townsville Stadium George set game-highs or equal game-highs in the three major statistical categories, scoring an equal game-high 16 points, took a game-high 15 rebounds including four defensive and made an equal game-high six assists.
George registered a double-double comprised of 22 points and 11 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories during a 76-55 victory against Adelaide Lightning at Cairns Pop-Up Arena on 8 December. In the victory George made 10 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58% and also made an equal team-high four assists. In the Boomers final game of the regular season George scored 18 points, took a game-high 17 rebounds and made four assists in a 64-70 loss to Townsville Fire. George was named in the Round 5 Team of the Week.
The Melbourne Boomers had nine wins and four losses during the 2020 WNBL regular season to finish two wins behind minor premiers the Southside Flyers and with the same win-loss record as the Townsville Fire and University of Canberra Capitals. The tie-breaker to determine the placings was the record of the teams in the matches against each other which resulted in Townsville finishing second, the Capitals third and the Boomers fourth.
In the 78-68 semi final victory against the University of Canberra Capitals at Townsville Stadium. George took a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Townsville outscored Melbourne 22 points to 17 in the first quarter of the preliminary final at Townsville Stadium to gain the ascendancy. Melbourne trailed 54-63 with four minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the game and scored eight unanswered points to reduce the margin to one point with 40 seconds remaining. Shyla Heal made two free throws to extend Townsville’s margin to three points which ended up being the final score of the game, Townsville defeated Melbourne 65-62, ending the Boomers season. George scored 15 points, made seven of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53%, took a game-high 10 rebounds, made five assists and an equal game-high two steals. George was selected in the WNBL’s Team of the Round for Round 5.
In 2020 George played 15 games for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and averaged 14.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game. George was selected in the 2020 All-WNBL first team along with Steph Talbot, Lauren Nicholson. Liz Cambage and Katie Ebzery. Boomers teammates Magbegor and Madgen were both selected in the All-WNBL second team. During an outstanding 2020 WNBL season George displayed her all-round skill-set to rank second in the league for rebounds, in the top seven for blocked shots and in the top 15 for scoring, assists and steals. George won the 2020 Michele Timms Medal as the Melbourne Boomers Most Valuable Player, winning the award for the second season in a row.
Playing for the Mackay Meteorettes during the 2021 NBL1 North season George averaged 22.4 points, 16.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game to win the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
On 19 November, 2021 the Deakin Melbourne Boomers announced that head coach Guy Molloy was heading to New Zealand permanently after the 2021/22 WNBL season. On Molloy’s ninth season as Boomers coach being his last with the club George told wnbl.basketball “Guy has been a huge influence in my life, and so many players within our Club, on the court but more importantly off it as well. My respect and love for him will always remain. Although the news was initially a challenge to hear, I am extremely excited for the chapter Guy is embarking on in the near future. However, we still have a job to do here, and nothing changes that.”5
The six Deakin Melbourne Boomers players that returned from the 2020 roster to suit up again in 2021 were headlined by George, Magbegor and Madgen who were the Boomers three highest scorers during the 2020 WNBL season, each averaging more than 13.0 points per game. Guard Izzy Wright and forward Penina Davidson were part of the Boomers core rotation last season and 2020 development player Rachel Brewster has been elevated to the main roster. Maddie Garrick joined the Bendigo Spirit and George was named the Boomers sole captain for the 2021/22 season.
Melbourne Boomers 2018/19 club MVP winner Lindsay Allen has returned to the Boomers for her third season with the club in 2021/22 and has been joined by her Indiana Fever teammate Tiffany Mitchell. During a six-season WNBA career with the Indiana Fever shooting guard Mitchell has averaged 10.1 points per game, playing 175 games, including 87 starts. With Australian Opals trio George, Magbegor and Madgen along with American imports Allen and Mitchell the Boomers have a potent starting line-up.
In the Melbourne Boomers opening game of the 2021/22 season George registered a double-double comprised of a team-high 16 points and a game-high 19 rebounds on the road against the Bendigo Spirit on 8 December.
In an 87-72 victory at Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville against the Southside Flyers on 18 December George scored a game-high 25 points, made 10 of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63%, took a game-high 12 rebounds, made three assists and had an equal game-high three steals.
On Shooting the Breeze, Episode 54 published on 24 December 2021 co-host Jacinta Govind asked George “There must be something about the Melbourne Boomers and how Christi (Collier-Hill) was organising and operating the Melbourne Boomers that has kept you going back to that club, I think this is your fourth season with them?” George responded “Definitely, so the club’s professionalism and how they have gone about things has certainly been enticing but one of the big reasons I came back to be really honest is for Guy, so a little upsetting that he is leaving but I think that is the best move for him. Tess and I are the only contracted players for next year so we will see how that cookie crumbles but right now we are focussed on this year so I can’t even think about next year. Certainly the club as a whole on the professionalism front is one of the best if not the best.”
During Shooting the Breeze, Episode 54 George commented “So what do I need to do now in this current (Boomers) team or in the Opals team or whatever team I play for, do I need to go out and drop a 25 ball tonight, what do I need to do to help this team be successful and in this current team I am not having the pressure to be that player, oh I have to drop 30 a night. I have never really come into a season thinking that, whether it is NBL1 or anything. I come in with a defensive focus and a rebound focus and let the offense flow. But with this team with the Boomers we have so much scoring power it is let’s run the offense and see what the defense gives us cos we can all score. So for me my focus is cutting the net at the end of the season and leading this team well. For me my focus of that is actually helping me relax and stay less anxious and just wanting to lead and make sure we are having a good time which will obviously have its challenges because seasons go in ebbs and flows but it is how quick we bounce back from that and how quickly I can help us bounce back from that as the leader.”
In the last quarter of the Melbourne Boomers victory against the Perth Lynx at Selkirk Stadium on 17 January George registered her fourth double-double of the season comprised of 19 points and 12 rebounds including 11 defensive. George made five of 10 three pointers and with her final three of the game reached 4,000 career points in the WNBL.
Milestones and Misses have published articles on the following WNBL games milestones earlier in the 2021/22 season.
Kelly Wilson 400 games
Abby Bishop 250 games
Aimie Rocci 200 games
Bec Cole 200 games and
Steph Talbot 150 games
To view these articles as well as other WNBL articles published on Milestones and Misses please click on the link to the website’s home page below.
Before their match this evening 22 January at home against Townsville the Melbourne Boomers have a record of six wins and two losses to be second on the ladder with a winning percentage of 75%, behind the Adelaide Lightning with a winning percentage of 80%.
In eight games for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in the first seven rounds of the 2021/22 WNBL season George has averaged 13.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.2 minutes court-time per game. George ranks third in the league for rebounds per game, equal first for blocked shots with Boomers teammate Magbegor and fifth for minutes played per game.
On 25 November 2021 it was announced that George had signed with the Cairns Dolphins for the 2022 NBL1 North season, George first played with Cairns in 2011. George commented “I’m thrilled to be back more than 10 years after my first season with the Dolphins. I always wanted to play for Cairns again – it is my adopted hometown and I’m passionate about promoting and inspiring the excellent young female basketball talent here.”6
Mentoring young female basketball players on and off the court
In November 2019 George set up caylageorge.com which involves George mentoring young female basketball players both on and off the court. In May 2020 Cayla commented “The caylageorge.com stuff is my way of giving back and I really felt like there was a real gap for young aspiring female athletes to really grasp a better understanding of what this life is like and I am still currently a professional athlete so it’s not like I am retired and letting them know how it used to be, like I’m here living it, like this is how I am living, this is what I am dealing with, this is what I think about mentally, this is how I cope with things mentally and I have teamed up with Greg Hire, ex-NBL champion with the Perth Wildcats, multiple champion winner. He has got his foundation, ‘A Stitch in Time’ so he has done so much, he has created a whole different platform for just the caylageorge program. I have done a few programs, my 12 week one is the big one and corona probably inspired that a little bit because the time of it, 12 weeks. We talk about mental health, how I’m training, how I handle things, how I am playing overseas, like how everything kind of works out over there.”
“Then I bring up other elite athletes into the mix from basketball and other sports just to talk about their journey’s and how they got to where they are because everyone’s journey like I have said is so different and everyone’s mindset can be kind of similar to get to a high level and it is a lot of sacrifice, that’s definitely a common theme. How people get there and what they go through and their stories is incredible and so for these girls to be able to ask questions directly to these athletes via Instagram lives and things like that I think is a really good thing for these girls to understand that it is ok to have a bad game or it is ok to feel this way but what are you putting in place to help yourself get back up and keep going and how badly do you want it, things like that.”
“When I would do camps with the Boomers or do school clinics whatever, I would have at least one teacher or parent come to me and say that is my daughter over there she’s lacking in confidence, all the time, like at least two or three parents, like all these girls lacking in confidence so if I can come in and say hey I lack in confidence sometimes too but here is what I do to counter-act it or here is what I do to get back up. It is ok to lack in confidence, but you know you can do it right, body knows what it is doing, it is joint all up here (points to her head), just keep deflecting all the negative comments you know, the negative vibes, deflect them. I kind of just help them put strategies in place and let them know that they are not alone and mentally as a professional for how long now, over 13, 14 years, I do the same thing but I just get better as I have gotten older.”
During her 293 game, 14 season WNBL career to date George has averaged 13.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game. George has been extremely consistent throughout her career and in each of her past 11 WNBL seasons from 2006/07 to 2021/22 has averaged at least 10.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
On the lists of WNBL All-time leaders George features in the top 10 in several categories. During her 12 season WNBL career George has taken 2,789 rebounds to rank third in this category behind her idol Rachel Sporn (3,229 rebounds) and six-time WNBL MVP winner Suzy Batkovic (2,975), Cayla also ranks third for defensive rebounds and sixth for total blocked shots. On Monday 17 January George became the 12th player in league history to score 4,000 points during their career and she requires another 43 points to move into the top 10 on this list.
For most of her basketball career George has played a prominent role on her teams as a starter playing for WNBL teams, in Europe and for the Opals from 2018 onwards, however there have been other times when she has been a role player off the bench, including in the WNBA and earlier on playing for the Opals.
George has played in WNBL Championships with the Townsville Fire in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2017/18 and has been selected in an All-WNBL team three times. Being selected in the All-WNBL first team in 2014/15 and 2020 and made the second team in 2018/19. George has had two top three finishes in the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player Award, being runner-up in 2014/15 and finished third in 2019/20.
At the last four major championships George has represented the Australian Opals and at three of these tournaments George ranked in the three for the Opals in rebounds. George has been a member of the Opals team that won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, silver at the 2018 World Cup and bronze at the 2014 World Cup. George played a significant role in the Opals defeating Spain in the semi final at the 2018 World Cup and winning by the required margin in their final group game against Puerto Rico at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to advance to the quarter finals.
On long-term goals she had as a teenager to eventually play for the Opals and in basketball leagues around the world George told Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “In my mind that is what I wanted to do, I was gonna play for the Opals, I was gonna play overseas and I was gonna play in the WNBA. Now, how that looked like and when it was going to happen, I didn’t have that timeline but I just knew that I really wanted to do it so I almost put horse blinkers on, you know so I kind of wasn’t so distracted by everything else around me and at times it was hard, because it is hard work, physically and mentally, like to watch other people’s journey’s, and gee gosh, they are there already, oh gosh like I am not good enough and just the self-doubt that you go through. Even to this day as an athlete, as a human, the constant battle of deflecting self-doubt and staying confident and knowing that you are competent, it was tough but I honestly never doubted it and I just wanted to do it so badly and didn’t stop til I got there and that sounds like really cliche, like good on you, work hard and you will get there but it really was a case of I did not stop until I got it.”
Cayla George has more to achieve in her basketball career and also off-the court mentoring young female basketballers through caylageorge.com. On mentoring young female basketballers George commented “I would like to continue inspiring young girls to be the best version of themselves with whatever they decide to do, whether it be an accountant, a horse-rider, a basketball player, a skirtballer – netball, or whatever they decide to do. I just want to keep inspiring young women because it just needs to be done.”
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
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