The Jayco Southside Flyers have retained an experienced core, with five members of their 2021/22 main roster with 100 games plus experience returning to the club for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season – Abby Bishop (256 games), Sara Blicavs (241), Aimie Rocci (212), Bec Cole (211) and Maddy Rocci (102). Bishop, Blicavs, Cole and Maddy Rocci started every game they played in 2021/22 whilst Aimie Rocci started 12 of the 14 games she played.
Southside Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea announced her retirement late in the 2021/22 season and during the off-season fellow 2012 Australian Opals Olympian Rachel Jarry announced her retirement. Opals 2012 captain and flag-bearer for the entire Australian Olympic team Lauren Jackson makes her WNBL comeback with the Southside Flyers in 2022/23 after winding back the clock and scoring a game-high 30 points in her final game for Australia in the victorious bronze medal game against Canada at the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Sydney. In the off-season Southside recruited forward Carly Ernst who after having son Kylan in September 2021 was part of the Melbourne Boomers WNBL Championship winning team in April 2022.
The Jayco Southside Flyers 10 player main roster was completed by three players who don’t have WNBL experience, American import Kayla Thornton who has played 194 WNBA regular season games and two members of the Australian Gems silver medal winning team at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Under 19 World Cup – Nyadiew Puoch and Dallas Loughridge.
Southside Flyers team huddle at a practice game against New Zealand at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2022
This article includes:
- A brief look back at the Jayco Southside Flyers 2021/22 WNBL season
- A preview of Southside’s 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season
- Detailed profiles on all 10 members of the Southside Flyers main roster and head coach Cheryl Chambers
Jayco Southside Flyers 2021/22 season review
Finished regular season in seventh place
At the Southside Flyers opening game of the 2021/22 WNBL season at Dandenong Stadium they unfurled their 2020 WNBL Championship banner. The Flyers starting line-up for Southside’s 94-83 victory against Bendigo in their first game was Maddy Rocci and Bec Cole in the back-court along with Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Abby Bishop in the front-court.
In Cole’s 200th WNBL game against Townsville Fire on 23 December 2021 Southside recovered from an 18 point deficit late in the second quarter to defeat Townsville Fire by five points, 86-81 led by a game-high 24 points from Cole.
Southside’s next two games were close losses to eventual Grand Finalists, Perth and Melbourne with Perth defeating Southside 83-79 in overtime at Selkirk Stadium in Ballarat on 12 January and the Flyers losing to Melbourne 72-75 at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville three days later on 15 January.
On the road against Sydney on 30 January Southside made a miraculous comeback after trailing Sydney 49-64 at three quarter-time to outscore the Flames 24-6 in the last quarter and have a victory by three points, 73-70. The win came at a cost as in the first half Bishop suffered a central tendon tear of the soleus muscle in her calf which ended her 2021/22 season. Southside’s record was three wins and five losses, however all losses had been to Melbourne and Perth.
Southside lost seven games in a row and then won their last two games of the season, defeating Townsville 100-79 and then Adelaide 87-79 in club captain O’Hea’s 299th and final WNBL game.
Southside’s five starters for the opening game of the season all averaged more than 29.0 minutes and 10.0 points per game, however due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 the Flyers rarely had their entire starting five all playing in the same game. The Flyers finished the 2021/22 season in seventh place with five wins and 12 losses.
Jayco Southside Flyers 2022/23 main roster
Returning: Abby Bishop, Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole, Aimie Rocci, Maddison Rocci
Arrivals: Carley Ernst (Melbourne Boomers – WNBL), Lauren Jackson (Albury Wodonga Bandits – NBL1 East, Dallas Loughridge (Basketball Australia Centre of Excellene – NBL1), Nyadiew Puoch (Basketball Australia Centre of Excellene – NBL1, Kayla Thornton (Dallas Wings – WNBA)
Departed: Kate Gaze, Rachel Jarry (retired), Jenna O’Hea (retired), Kristy Wallace (Melbourne Boomers -WNBL), Emilee Whittle-Harmon (UC Capitals – WNBL)
Five members of Southside Flyers 2021/22 core rotation of 10 players that each averaged more than 12 minutes per game wont be suiting up for the club during the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Five-time All-WNBL First team member O’Hea announced her retirement late in the 2021/22 WNBL season. Inaugural Southside captain O’Hea ranked fifth for the Flyers in scoring per game and third in rebounds in 2021/22. Rachel Jarry announced her retirement late in the 2022 NBL1 South season with the Sandringham Sabres. Kristy Wallace has joined WNBL crosstown rivals the Melbourne Boomers and Emilee Whittle-Harmon has joined the University of Canberra Capitals. Kate Gaze isn’t playing in the WNBL during the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season but is a sideline reporter on the television coverage of Townsville Fire’s home games at the Townsville Entertainment Centre.
Bec Cole Guard 19/3/1992
Dallas Loughridge Guard 23/1/2004
Aimie Rocci Guard 21/9/1993
Maddison Rocci Guard 1/6/1998
Sara Blicavs Forward 15/2/1993
Carley Ernst Forward 1/8/1994
Kayla Thornton* Forward 20/10/1992
Nyadiew Puoch Forward 23/6/2004
Lauren Jackson Forward/Centre 11/5/1981
Abby Bishop Centre 29/11/1988
Detailed player profiles on all 10 members of the Jayco Southside Flyers main roster for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season are included later in this article.
Lana Hollingsworth Guard 01/01/2000
Georgia Pineau Forward 12/01/1997
Holly Griffiths Centre 06/12/2004
Cheryl Chambers Head Coach
Belinda Snell Assistant Coach
Hanna Lowe Assistant Coach
Kerryn Mitchell Assistant Coach
A detailed profile on Jayco Southside Flyers Head Coach Chambers is included later in this article.
Preview of the Jayco Southside Flyers 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season
In July 2019 the Dandenong Rangers WNBL license was transferred from the Dandenong Basketball Association to Gerry Ryan. In 1975 Ryan founded Jayco who were the naming rights sponsor of the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team from 1997 to 2019. Ryan established the Southside Flyers and appointed Cheryl Chambers as the Flyers Head Coach for the 2019/20 season. Chambers is in her fourth consecutive season as Southside’s Head Coach and is joined by a trio of players that have been at Southside since the 2019/20 season, Aimie Rocci, Sara Blicavs and Bec Cole. Rocci has been appointed Southside’s captain, taking over the role from Southside’s inaugural captain Jenna O’Hea who retired at the end of the 2021/22 season and was captain of the Flyers 2020 Championship winning team. Five of the six players that averaged more than 25 minutes per game in 2021/22 have returned to the Flyers for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season – Aimie Rocci, Blicavs, Cole, Bishop and Maddy Rocci, the only exception is the aforementioned O’Hea.
Five players on Southside’s 2022/23 roster were members of the Australian Opals extended squad during 2022, Blicavs and Lauren Jackson were both members of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Maddy Rocci and Bec Cole both played in the Opal three game series against Japan held in New South Wales in May whilst Bishop was a member of the Opals extended squad but was unable to train at the February 2022 training camp due to injury.
The Southside Flyers 10 player main roster for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season is comprised of four guards and six front-court players. 18 year old point guard Dallas Loughridge injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a pre-season game and will miss the entire season. This leaves Southside with three active guards on their main roster Bec Cole, Maddy Rocci and Aimie Rocci. Cole was runner-up in the WNBL’s 2018/19 MVP Award and has averaged more than 15.0 points per game in each of the past four WNBL seasons. Maddy Rocci was selected in the 2020 All-WNBL Second Team and ranked sixth in the league with 4.6 assists per game in 2021/22. Newly appointed captain Aimie Rocci will provide the Flyers with tremendous leadership and has ranked in the league’s top 15 for assists per game in both 2020 and 2021/22.
Southside’s six front-court players include a trio of players that have each represented the Australian Opals at multiple major championships – Australia’s greatest ever basketball player Lauren Jackson along with 2014/15 WNBL MVP Abby Bishop and 2020 All-WNBL Second team member Sara Blicavs. American import Kayla Thornton is a starter for the Dallas Wings in the WNBA and has averaged 7.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 25.4 minutes per game over her 194 WNBA regular season games. Carley Ernst has played 236 WNBL games and finished in the top 10 of the WNBL’s MVP Award in 2016/17 and can stretch the floor with her outside shooting ability. 18 year old forward Nyadiew Puoch has outstanding athletic ability and named Most Valuable Player of the tournament at the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships.
The Southside Flyers shape as contenders for the 2022/23 WNBL Championship and it will be interesting to see how they structure their rotations with a taller team than several rival clubs in the WNBL. It could result in forwards such as Blicavs (189cm), Thornton (185cm) and Puoch (186cm) spending time matched against smaller opponents. The outside shooting ability of the Flyers will enable them to spread the floor.
After playing shortened seasons in 2020 and 2021/22 due to COVID-19 the WNBL season returns to its usual length with each club playing 21 games during the 2022/23 regular season. All 84 games during the 16 round Cygnett WNBL regular season will be broadcast on television. A Wednesday game each round will be broadcast by ESPN and 68 games will be shown on Nine’s free streaming service 9 Now.
After being based at Dandenong Stadium in their first three seasons from 2019/20 to 2021/22 the Southside Flyers will play their home games during the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season at the State Basketball Centre. The Flyers commence their season with a home game at SBC tonight, Saturday 5 November against Adelaide Lightning starting at 7.00pm and host cross-town rivals Melbourne Boomers at the same venue on Wednesday 9 November. Later in the season Southside have four road games in a row from Friday January 13 to Saturday 28 January followed by four consecutive home games from February 4 to March 4 to finish the season.
Player profiles for main roster players in alphabetical order of surname
#10 Position: Centre
Date of birth 29 November 1988 Height 189cm
Junior Club Forestville/North Adelaide (South Australia)
WNBL debut: 2005/06 WNBL games played: 256
Bishop was born in Booleroo Centre and grew up on a farm just outside Melrose, a small country town located in the Southern Flinders Ranges, 265 kilometres north of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide. Abby went to primary school in Melrose and the main sport she played during primary school was netball. Bishop reached a high standard in netball, playing for South Australia at under-age level. Bishop played junior basketball for Forestville and North Adelaide.
After completing Year 10 at Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide Abby moved to live in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on a basketball scholarship, allowing her to devote more time to training and playing basketball whilst also completing Year 11 and 12.
Bishop made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 16 years of age at the start of the 2005/06 season. Bishop played 12 games for the AIS in 2005/06, averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Throughout the 2005/06 season Bishop shot the ball proficiently to have a field goal accuracy of 51.5%. Bishop had an outstanding debut WNBL season and won the 2005/06 Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award.
During 2007 Bishop represented Australia at three age levels, playing for the Australian under 19 and under 21 teams at the respective World Championships, before progressing to represent the senior Australian women’s team the Opals. At the 2007 Under 19 World Championships held in the Slovak Republic during July & August 2007 Bishop was Australia’s best player, playing all nine games and averagd 12.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game to lead Australia in both categories. Bishop ranked fourth overall at the World Championships for rebounds per game.
After the 2005/06 WNBL season Bishop left the AIS and joined the Canberra Capitals, Carrie Graf was the Head Coach. At just 18 years of age Bishop exceeded expectations to finish the 2006/07 regular season ranked fifth in the WNBL for rebounds with 8.0 per game and second for offensive rebounds with 3.5 per game.
From 2006/07 to 2009/10 Bishop played four consecutive seasons and a total of 86 games for the Canberra Capitals. During the 2008/09 WNBL season Bishop further enhanced her game to clearly be Canberra’s best player and one of the best players in the league. At the end of the regular season Bishop ranked fourth in the WNBL for points per game with 17.3 per game and led the league for rebounds (10.7 per game) and offensive rebounds (3.9). Bishop scored a season-high 28 points twice, against Bendigo in Round 11 and against Perth in Round 18. In the Grand Final at AIS Arena on 13 March 2009 the Canberra Capitals recorded a thrilling victory against the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers 61 to 58 to win the WNBL Championship with Bishop taking 14 rebounds. Bishop was recognised for her outstanding season with selection in the 2008/09 WNBL All-Star five.
Due to a shoulder injury Bishop missed the first half of the 2009/10 WNBL season. The Capitals received a double boost in their front-court mid-season if Bishop returning from injury and current Southside Flyers teammate Lauren Jackson signing with the club mid-season. Canberra finished the 2009/10 regular season in third position with 16 wins and six losses. The Capitals progressed to a Grand Final on the road against minor premiers Bulleen at the Cage (now known as Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville) in Melbourne and in a high standard game the lead changed 23 times. After trailing 62-68 with four and a half minutes remaining the Capitals went on a 13-2 run to defeat the Boomers 75-70 and win back-to-back WNBL championships. In four consecutive seasons with the Capitals from 2006/07 to 2009/10 Bishop ranked in the top six of the league for rebounds per game.
After the 2009/10 WNBL season Bishop left the Capitals and played for three clubs in three seasons, playing in the WNBL for Dandenong Rangers in 2010/11 and Adelaide Lightning in 2011/12 followed by playing for French club Perpignan in 2012/13. Bishop ranked in the WNBL’s top eight for scoring and rebounds per game in both 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Bishop represented Australia at two consecutive major championships – the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic and was part of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympic Games. At the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championship Bishop ranked second for the Opals in scoring and equal second in rebounding which contributed to her winning the Maher medal as the 2011 Women’s Australian International Player of the Year.
From 2010 to 2016 Bishop played three WNBA seasons for Seattle Storm, 2010, 2015 and 2016. In her 2010 debut WNBA season Bishop played alongside fellow Australian and current Southside teammate Lauren Jackson and was a member of Seattle Storm’s WNBA Championship winning team.
After one season in France Bishop returned to play for the Canberra Capitals in 2013/14. In a mutually agreed decision Abby took custody of her niece Zala in August 2013 from older sister Chloe who was based in Darwin. At the time that Abby was given custody Zala was just two days old and the agreement was that Abby would have custody for at least 12 months, however subsequently Abby was granted full custody of Zala until she turned 18 years old. During the 2013/14 WNBL season with the Capitals Bishop averaged a double-double for the second time in her career comprised of a then WNBL career-high 18.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
In 2014/15 Bishop took her basketball to a new stratosphere, becoming the most dominant player in the WNBL. Most players would be ecstatic if they could score more than 27 points in three games during a season, or possibly even over the course of their entire career. With phenomenal play Bishop achieved this feat in the month of November 2014 alone, scoring 28 points against Dandenong in Round 3 on November 1 in just 25 minutes 13 seconds court-time, 29 points against Sydney in their Round 4 game on November 5 and 31 points against Adelaide in Round 7 on 29 November. In four games during November Bishop took more than 11 rebounds, including an equal season best 18 rebounds against the West Coast Waves on November 9.
Abby was remarkably consistent during the 2014/15 WNBL season, scoring more than 16 points in 18 of her 22 games, including 28 or more points in eight games to easily lead the WNBL in scoring during the regular season, averaging 23 points per game, 2.8 points per game more than the league’s second ranked player, Dandenong Rangers forward Penny Taylor. In 2014/15 Bishop played all 22 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 23.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 34.9 minutes per game. Bishop was selected in the 2014/15 WNBL All-Star Five and was a run-away winner of the 2014/15 WNBL Most Valuable Player Award, polling 135 votes to finish well ahead of Townsville frontcourt duo Cayla Francis and Suzy Batkovic on 107 and 105 votes respectively.
Throughout her career Bishop has played in several European leagues, having played in France, Hungary, Spain and Italy. Bishop joined PEAC Pecs with two months left in the 2013/14 season and played an important role in the club winning the Hungarian Cup. Bishop played as a forward for PEAC Pecs and excelled in the championship game, scoring 19 points and winning the Grand Final MVP, Abby was also named in the All-Tournament team. In 2016/17 Bishop playing for French club Tarbes Gespe Bigorre Bishop averaged a double-double for the season comprised of 19.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game
In 2015/16 Bishop played her third consecutive season with the Canberra Capitals. Due to a hamstring injury Bishop’s game-time was managed early in the season. Since 2016 Bishop has played for three WNBL clubs, Adelaide Lightning in 2017/18, Townsville Fire in 2019/20 and the Southside Flyers in 2021/22 and 2022/23. In Bishop’s first seven games for Southside in 2021/22 she scored at least 14 points in a game six times and took more than nine rebounds in a game five times. Mid-season Bishop suffered a central tendon tear of the soleus muscle in her calf which ended her 2021/22 season.
During each of 189 centimetre tall Bishop’s past 11 WNBL seasons from 2007/08 onwards she has averaged at least 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, during this time Bishop has regularly featured among the league leaders for both scoring and rebounding.
After signing with the Jayco Southside Flyers for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Bishop told WNBL Media “It was great to be back playing in the WNBL last season and I really enjoyed playing with the Flyers, such a great group of people, like a big family. It was really disappointing not to be able to play the whole season, thankfully that is behind me now and I am looking forward to a big season. Adding to the excitement of the upcoming season is the opportunity to once again play with Lauren Jackson, it is going to be very special for the Flyers.”1
To celebrate Bishop playing her 250th WNBL game an article was published on Milestones and Misses on 16 December 2021 comprehensively covering her career. A link to this article is below:
WNBL Achievements: Betty Watson Rookie of the Year 2005/06
WNBL All Star Five 2008/09, 2014/15
WNBL Most Valuable Player 2014/15
WNBL Championship 2008/09, 2009/10 (with Canberra Capitals)
DOB 15 February 1993 Height 189cm
Junior Club Melbourne Tigers (Victoria)
WNBL debut: 2009/10 WNBL games played: 241
The Southside Flyers announced on 18 August 2022 that Sara Blicavs had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Southside head coach Cheryl Chambers told wnbl.basketball “Sara is a very important part of our team and the way she continues to build her game to an even higher level shows her professionalism. She can consistently knock the 3, shoots the pull up and can also get to the rack. She continues to raise the bar for our team and helps build the Flyers culture on and off the court. She is a great person around the team and continues to be a real fan favourite.”2
In 2009/10 Sara Blicavs made her WNBL debut at 16 years of age with the Australian Institute of Sport, during her three seasons with the AIS she improved significantly and in her final season Blicavs ranked in the top two at the AIS for points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Blicavs joined the Dandenong Rangers for the 2012/13 WNBL season and starred on club debut, scoring 19 points and taking eight rebounds. In 2013/14 and 2014/15 Blicavs played for the Bendigo Spirit and was a member of the club’s 2013/14 WNBL championship. Blicavs returned to the Jayco Rangers in 2015/16 and has played seven consecutive WNBL seasons with the Dandenong based WNBL club who rebranded to become the Southside Flyers in 2019/20. Of all the players on a 2021/22 WNBL roster Blicavs had the longest current consecutive seasons streak with their club.
In a 2015/16 semi final for the Jayco Rangers against the SEQ Stars Sara was phenomenal, playing one of the all-time great WNBL finals games, scoring 38 points on 14 of 26 field goals at an accuracy of 53.8%, took a team-high nine rebounds and made an equal team-high four assists. During five seasons from 2012/13 to 2016/17 before suffering knee injuries Blicavs played a total of 131 WNBL games to be one of the most durable players in the league and was on an upward trajectory with her scoring average increasing by at least 1.5 points per game in all five seasons during this time. In 2016/17 Sara finished equal fifth in the WNBL MVP Award and was a joint winner of the Rangers MVP Award along with sister in-law Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming). Days after the Rangers 2016/17 Awards Steph married Sara’s older brother Kris.
Sara Blicavs playing for Dandenong Rangers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 31 October 2016
On Friday 10 November, 2017 Sara suffered a serious knee injury just before half-time against Adelaide at Dandenong Stadium. Days later it was confirmed that Sara required a knee reconstruction and would miss the remainder of the season, however Sara had actually suffered three injuries, rupturing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), ripped the meniscus root of the bone and fractured her kneecap.
After her knee reconstruction Blicavs had numerous set-backs and she missed 13 months in the WNBL, making her WNBL return in December 2018, playing limited minutes for the Jayco Rangers in her six games for the season. During the 2019/20 WNBL season Sara returned to being a starter, playing for the Southside Flyers.
Sara Blicavs shooting a free-throw for Southside Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019
Athleticism has always been a strength of Blicavs’, however as her career progressed she has expanded her game to improve her defense and outside shooting. In 2020 Blicavs was a member of the Southside Flyers WNBL Championship winning team and had a brilliant individual season to rank equal ninth in the WNBL for rebounds per game, 10th for steals and 15th for scoring. Blicavs was a weapon from long-range, making 24 three-pointers at an accuracy of 57.1% during the regular season. Blicavs was recognised for her brilliant all-round season with selection in the 2020 All-WNBL second team.
Blicavs was a member of the Australian Opals team that in February 2020 qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France. Forward Blicavs played for the Australian Opals at the Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the third member of her family to represent Australia in basketball at a major championship, emulating both her parents, dadAndris and mum Karen who won the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in the league’s first two seasons in 1982 and 1983. Sara’s older brother Mark has played 226 AFL games for Geelong and has won the club’s best and fairest twice. On Saturday 24 September Mark will be playing for Geelong in the AFL Grand Final against Sydney in Melbourne at the MCG.
Despite missing games due to a back injury and COVID-19 during the 2021/22 WNBL season Sara averaged 16.0 points (ranked 8th in the WNBL) and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Southside Flyers.
At state league level in the SEABL and NBL1 Blicavs has played many seasons for the Geelong Supercats. During the 2022 NBL1 South season Blicavs played 18 games for the Geelong Supercats, averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Blicavs ranked fifth in NBL1 South for scoring per game and seventh for rebounds.
At the 2022 FIBA World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October Blicavs was a member of the Australian Opals bronze medal winning team. After starting Australia’s first three group games on the bench Blicavs was promoted into the Opals starting line-up due to a rib injury to Bec Allen. In the Opals quarter final against Belgium Blicavs scored 12 points at a field goal accuracy of 60% and took an equal game-high nine rebounds in the 86-69 victory. Against Canada in the bronze medal game Blicavs was the Opals third highest scorer with 12 points and took four rebounds in Australia’s 95-65 win. Blicavs played all eight games at the tournament for Australia and averaged 5.0 points, 3.6 rebounds – ranked fifth for the Opals and 17.1 minutes per game.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL Second Team 2020
WNBL Championship 2013/14 (with Bendigo Spirit), 2020 (with Southside Flyers)
DOB 19 March 1992 Height 178cm
Junior Club Nunawading Spectres (Victoria)
WNBL debut: 2009/10 WNBL games played: 211
On 16 August 2022 the Southside Flyers announced that Bec Cole had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Southside Head Coach Cheryl Chambers told WNBL Media “Bec is certainly an important player for our team, starting with the high standards she sets at training and then in games. She is quick, drives to the basket and shoots the 3, and she is a strong defender. Add that infectious personality which not only excites our crowd, it also helps to drive her teammates.”3
During an outstanding junior career Bec Cole captained the Australian Gems at the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championships and ranked in the top two for the Gems in scoring and assists. At 16 years of age Cole made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2009/10. After playing all 22 WNBL games for the AIS as a point guard in 2010/11 and impressing with her skills and leadership Cole was appointed AIS captain for the 2011/12 season.
At an AIS training session in October 2011 Cole injured her right knee and required a reconstruction. Cole made her WNBL return and played 13 games for the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers in 2012/13. During 2014/15 with the Boomers Cole averaged a then career-best 11.8 points per game. In a SEABL game for Nunawading in May 2015 Cole injured her left knee and needed a reconstruction which resulted in her having both of her knees reconstructed before she was 24 years old.
After missing the entire 2015/16 WNBL season Cole made her return in 2016/17 and has been extremely durable in the past six WNBL seasons, playing 124 of a possible 127 games. In episode 1 of the Rangers Podcast in October 2018 Cole commented “In the last couple of years I have found something that I really enjoy, yeah going into the gym and working on my whole body is what makes me stay on the floor and not get injured. I want to be able to play on the court as long as possible, so anything I can do to keep playing until my body says no, I will be doing that.”
Bec Cole playing for Melbourne Boomers against Dandenong Rangers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 January 2017 and being guarded by current Southside Flyers captain Aimie Rocci
From 2017 onwards Cole has played in many 3×3 tournaments including representing Australia at international tournaments. Cole is Australia’s 3×3 captain and in both the 2018 and 2019 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup she was named in the Team of the Tournament, also being named the Most Valuable Player in the 2019 edition where Australia won the gold medal.
Before the 2018/19 WNBL season with the Jayco Rangers Bec had never averaged more than 12 points per game. Playing 3×3 basketball from 2017 onwards and a positional move from point guard to shooting guard were key factors in Cole elevating her game to another stratosphere. Cole had a break-out 2018/19 season, averaging 19.4 points per game and shot at 51.0% from the field for the Jayco Rangers to finish runner-up in the 2018/19 WNBL MVP Award and was named in that season’s All-WNBL first team. Cole was selected in the 2019/20 All-WNBL second team for her performances with the Southside Flyers. In each of the past four seasons from 2018/19 to 2021/22 Cole has averaged more than 15.0 points per game to rank in the WNBL’s top eight for scoring.
Bec Cole shooting a free-throw for Dandenong Rangers against the Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Stadium on 2 November 2018
During the 2020 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers Cole maintained a high of level of performance to rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for points per game (7th), assists (5th), steals (4th), field goal percentage (3rd) and 3 point percentage (4th). Whilst Cole missed out on selection in an All-WNBL team in 2020, more than 10 years after her debut with the AIS in 2009/10 she was able to achieve a major goal of winning a WNBL Championship with the Southside Flyers.
In WNBL game number 200 on Thursday night 23 December 2021 at Dandenong Stadium Southside Flyers shooting guard Cole displayed an abundance of persistence, skill and determination to score a game-high 24 points shooting at 58% from the field to play a pivotal role in the Flyers overcoming an 18 point deficit late in the second quarter to defeat Townsville Fire by five points, 86-81.
Below is a link to an article published on Milestone and Misses on 25 December 2021 celebrating Cole reaching 200 WNBL games:
During the 2021/22 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers Cole averaged 16.7 points (ranked 5th in the WNBL) and made 33 of 71 three-pointers at an accuracy of 46.5% to rank third for three-point accuracy amongst players that made at least 10 shots from behind the arc.
Bec Cole playing for the Southside Flyers against the Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 11 December, 2021
Playing for Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season Cole was teammates with current Southside Flyers forward Carley Ernst. Cole scored at least 20 points in a game 10 times including the last five games of the season. Cole played 22 games for the Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season and averaged a team-high 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds a team-high 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Bec Cole playing for Southside in a practice game against New Zealand at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2022
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First team 2018/19
All-WNBL Second team 2019/20
WNBL Championship 2020 (with Southside Flyers)
DOB 1 August 1994 Height 196cm
Junior Club Dandenong Ranger (Victoria)
WNBL debut: 2009/10 WNBL games played: 236
Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic) was born in Melbourne and grew up in Narre Warren, a suburb approximately 40 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. Carley’s dad played basketball professionally in Serbia before moving to Australia in the 1970’s and her aunty Zorica Mijovic played in the WNBL, ranking in the top 10 of the league for free-throw accuracy in 1986 playing for Geelong.
Carley played her junior basketball with the Dandenong Rangers. Impressive performances for the Rangers resulted in Ernst having the opportunity to accept a scholarship at 15 years of age and move to the AIS. Mijovic made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 15 years of age on 19 December, 2009 in a home game against the Jayco Rangers. One of Ernst’s AIS teammates in this game was current Southside Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs.
Ernst represented Vic Metro at several under-age national championships including the 2010 under 18 championships where she scored a game-high 24 points and had 11 rebounds in Vic Metro’s one point victory 65-64 against Queensland South in the gold medal game to play a key role in her state winning the National Championship.
Due to two major knee surgeries Ernst missed the entire 2010/11 WNBL season. Ernst made her return at the start of the 2011/12 season and in a Round 5 game for the AIS scored 21 points and took nine rebounds against Sydney Flames. In her first full-season of WNBL basketball with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2011/12 Ernst played 18 games, averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds to win the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year Award.
From 2012/13 to 2014/15 Ernst played for three different WNBL clubs, Dandenong (2012/13), Canberra (2013/14) and Adelaide 2014/15). In all three seasons Ernst averaged more than 6.0 points and at least 3.5 rebounds per game.
At the 2013 Women’s Under 19 World Championships Ernst was a member of the Australian Gems. Australia won six of their first eight games of the tournament with the losses being to Spain in a group game and USA in a semi final. In the Bronze Medal game Australia faced Spain who had defeated the Gems 63-81 in their pool game, and it looked to be following the same script when Spain led the Bronze Medal game 48-31. Ernst and Talbot were influential in the Gems getting back in the contest and over-running Spain to get a 73-68 victory and win the bronze medal. It was the first time the Gems had won a medal at a World Championships since 1997. In the Bronze Medal game Ernst scored a game-high 25 points, took six rebounds, made an equal team-high two blocked shots, shot the ball at 50% from the field. Carley was one of two Gems to score more than eight points in the bronze medal game along with Talbot who scored 22 points and took a team-high nine rebounds.
In 2014 Ernst received a scholarship in Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence (CoE) Women’s program. In April 2014 Ernst was selected by the Washington Mystics with selection 30 in the third round of the 2014 WNBA draft.
Ernst joined Perth Lynx for the 2015/16 WNBL season. From 2009/10 to half-way through the 2015/16 season Ernst had been part of the core rotation at several WNBL clubs, however had usually started games on the bench and played less than 25 minutes in a game. In the second half of the 2015/16 season Ernst was inserted into the Perth Lynx starting line-up and for the rest of the season was one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the league. In a Round 16 game against the SEQ Stars Ernst scored a game-high 34 points – 14 more than the second ranked player, making 12 of her 21 field goal attempts including nine of 17 three-pointers. Ernst followed this up in her next game with a game-high 28 points in a road game against the Canberra Capitals at AIS Arena, had six rebounds, making 10 of her 16 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 64% and was very effective beyond the arc, making seven of her 12 three-pointers. In the last 10 games of the 2015/16 season Ernst made a total of 42 three-pointers at a superb accuracy of 48%.
Carly Ernst playing for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers on 22 January 2017 at the State Basketball Centre
During 2016/17 Ernst starting for Perth Lynx throughout the season. In 2016/17 Ernst played 27 games for Perth Lynx, averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 blocked shots and 31.2 minutes per game. Ernst set new career-highs for points per game, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, assists and minutes played, playing a pivotal role in Perth making the finals for a second successive season. Throughout her career Ernst’s strengths had been her athleticism and outside shooting. During the 2016/17 season with Perth she improved her rebounding and defense, her more rounded game was recognised throughout the league and she was rewarded with a top 10 finish in the WNBL’s MVP Award.
Ernst played two seasons for the Dandenong Rangers in 2017/18 and 2018/19 followed by two seasons for Bendigo Spirit in 2019/20 and 2020. During the 2020 hub season with Bendigo Spirit Ernst averaged 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to set new career-highs in both categories. Ernst and Tessa Lavey were joint winners of Bendigo’s 2020 Most Valuable Player Award. 2021/22 was the fourth time in her career that Ernsthad averaged at least 12.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, having previously achieved this in 2016/17 with Perth, 2017/18 with Dandenong and 2019/20 with Bendigo. In 2018 Ernst played in Romania and was a member of APS Sepsi CIC’s championship winning team.
In September 2020 Ernst had a son Kylan. Four months later Carley made her WNBL return with the Melbourne Boomers playing off the bench. Against Townsville Fire on 25 February at the State Basketball Centre Ernst scored 22 points and shot the ball exceptionally to make eight of nine field goal attempts including six of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 85.7%. Ernst was a member of the Melbourne Boomers team that won the 2021/22 WNBL Championship. Ernst played 15 games for the Boomers and averaged 5.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 14.8 minutes court-time per game.
Carly Ernst shooting a three-pointer for Melbourne Boomers against Sydney Flames on 20 February 2022 at the State Basketball Centre
At the Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season Ernst played alongside Southside Flyers teammate Bec Cole. During the season Ernst registered six double-doubles including 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds against Bendigo Spirit in the preliminary final. Ernst played 23 games for Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season and averaged 15.5 points – ranked second behind Cole, 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game. Ernst ranked equal 10th in the conference for blocked shots per game.
WNBL Achievements: Betty Watson Rookie of the Year 2011/12
WNBL Championship 2021/22 (with Melbourne Boomers)
DOB 11 May 1981 Height 195cm
Junior Club Albury Cougars (NSW)
WNBL debut: 1997 WNBL games played: 172
Australia’s greatest basketball player of all-time, Lauren Jackson commenced a basketball comeback in November 2021 to play with the Albury Wodonga Bandits in the 2022 NBL1 East season. Jackson has excelled in the past 12 months to win the NBL1 East MVP Award playing for the Bandits and be a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2022 World Cup, scoring a game-high 30 points against Canada in the bronze medal game.
On 24 August 2022 the Southside Flyers announced that Jackson had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Director of the Southside Flyers, Gerry Ryan told WNBL Media “Lauren is an icon of Australian sport, a great role model, and she will not only be a wonderful contributor to the team on the court, but she will also play an enormous role in building our program to support and develop more opportunities for girls and women in basketball and sport in general. Her comeback is an inspiration for everyone to continue to strive and not give up, in sport and in life. The Flyers are about family and we know how important family is to Lauren and we welcome her family to the team.”4
Lauren Jackson was born and grew up in Albury, New South Wales. Both of Lauren’s parents, dad Gary and mum Maree played basketball for Australia. Maree represented Australia at the FIBA World Championship for Women twice – 1975 in Columbia and 1979 in South Korea. Lauren started playing junior basketball at five or six years of age and progressed to play her first representative game for Albury at around 10 years of age and then played for NSW Country at junior level from the Under 14’s up.
At 14 years of age Jackson was offered a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) but didn’t take up the scholarship until a couple of years later at the start of year 11 in 1997. Jackson represented Australia at under-age level at several tournaments including as a member of the silver medal Gems team at the 1997 World Junior Championships held in Brazil in July. Jackson ranked ninth overall at the tournament in scoring per game and third for rebounds despite being 16 years old, three years younger than some of the other players.
During 1997 Jackson made her WNBL debut with the AIS and excelled to win the league’s Rookie of the Year Award. Later in 1997 Jackson made her debut for the Australian Opals who were coached by Tom Maher. Jackson was a member of the Australian Opals team that won a bronze medal at the 1998 World Championships held in Germany. It was the first time that Australia had a won a medal at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championships. Jackson ranked third for the Opals in scoring and fourth for rebounds.
From 1998 to 2012 Jackson represented the Opals with distinction at eight consecutive major championships comprised of four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Jackson was the captain of the Opals in four major championships from 2006 to 2012 and was Australia’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Jackson won seven medals at major championships with the Australian Opals including gold at the 2006 World Championships in Rio where she finished runner-up in the tournament’s MVP Award to teammate Penny Taylor.
At six major championships Jackson ranked in the top three overall in scoring per game including ranking first three times – 2002 and 2006 World Championships as well as 2004 Olympic Games. Jackson has also ranked in the top four overall in rebounding per game at a major championships five times.
Jackson has played 172 WNBL games and her average of 22.2 points per game ranks first on the league’s all-time list. Jackson won her first WNBL MVP award in her third and final season with the AIS in 1998/99, the AIS created history by winning their first WNBL Championship.
From 1999/2000 to 2003/04 Jackson played five consecutive seasons with the Canberra Capitals and averaged more than 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game to earn selection in the WNBL All-Star five in all five seasons. Jackson played in back-to-back WNBL Championships with Canberra in 2001/02 and 2002/03 and was named the Grand Final MVP in both seasons. Jackson won the WNBL MVP Award three times with the Capitals – 1999/2000, 2002/03 and 2003/04.
In the 2001 WNBA Draft on 20 April Seattle Storm selected Jackson with the first pick overall. Forward/centre Jackson played 12 consecutive seasons with Seattle Storm from 2001 to 2012 with the Seattle Storm, was selected in the All-WNBA First team seven times and won three WNBA MVP Awards – 2003, 2007 and 2010. In 2007 Jackson won the WNBA’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the same season – a feat that as at the end of the 2022 season has only been achieved by five players in league history. Jackson played in the Storm’s first two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010 alongside point guard Sue Bird and won the 2010 WNBA Finals MVP Award. Jackson has played 317 regular season game for Seattle and averaged 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game.
Jackson has also played in several other leagues in Europe and Asia, playing in Russia for Spartak Moscow Region from 2007 to 2011, in Spain for Ros Caseras Valencia in 2011/12. Playing for Samsung Bichumi in the Women’s Korean Basketball League Jackson won the league MVP Award in 2007. In 2013 Jackson played for Heilongjiang Shenda in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
After the 2003/04 WNBL season Jackson has only played games in three seasons. In 2005/06 and 2009/10 Jackson played in WNBL Championships with the Canberra Capitals and won the Grand Final MVP Award. Jackson also played for the Capitals in 2014/15 however injuries restricted her to six games. Jackson has won the WNBL’s Grand Final MVP Award four times which is the league’s All-time record and has won the WNBL’s regular season MVP Award four times – ranked second on the All-time list behind Suzy Batkovic (who the medal is named after) with six.
Due to a knee injury Jackson missed the 2014 World Championships. Jackson was signed by the Canberra Capitals for the 2015/16 WNBL season but due to a knee injury didn’t play a game in 2015. On New Years Eve 2015 Jackson was released from her Capitals contract. Jackson continued to work with Australian Opals staff in an attempt to play at the 2016 Olympics, however in March she realised she wouldn’t be able to achieve this to her knee injury. At the start of the Opals first training camp in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics Jackson announced her retirement on 31 March.
In late May 2016 Jackson joined WNBL club, Melbourne Boomers in an off-court executive role as Commercial Operations Manager. Basketball Australia appointed Jackson as Head of Women in Basketball in June 2019. On 26 March 2020 FIBA announced that Australia had won the bid to host the 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup with Sydney being the host city. In her role with Basketball Australia Jackson was involved in the planning and publicity of the 2022 World Cup.
Lauren Jackson presenting Ezi Magbegor with the WNBL’s 2019/20 Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award at the State Basketball Centre on 23 February 2020
Earlier this year Jackson made her basketball return as a player with the Albury Wodonga Bandits in a Round 3 NBL1 East road game on 23 April. In her return game Jackson scored a team-high 21 points playing 22 minutes and 29 seconds court-time against the Albury Wodonga play their home games at a venue named in LJ’s honour – the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre and in the first game of her comeback on this court Jackson dominated with 31 points and 24 rebounds in a 97-80 victory against Manly Warringah.
The Bandits won the NBL1 East Grand Final and Jackson won the league’s regular season Most Valuable Player Award. Including finals Jackson played 14 games for the Bandits during the 2022 NBL1 season, averaging 31.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
In late July 2022 Jackson attended an Australian Opals training camp in New York City and played in both of the Opals practice matches against Canada. After the second game Jackson told Australia. Basketball “It was great to be out there on the court, I can now say I have played 2 international matches in the past nine years, something I never thought I would say. I’m always hard on my own performances but I definitely contributed, and it felt incredible to test myself against some of the world’s best players. I’m a little more reliant on the after-game recovery than I used to be but the fire in the belly is still there, and my love of the game hasn’t diminished at all.”5
On 10 August, 2022 Jackson was one of the 12 players selected in the Opals team for the 2022 World Cup. At 41 years of age Jackson would get to competing in her ninth major championship just over a decade after being a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympic Games. After being selected in Australia’s 2022 World Cup team Jackson told australia.basketball “There were a lot of emotions when Sandy rang me, I had a bit of a cry to be honest” Jackson said. “I have been working my body hard, and I didn’t honestly know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regime, but it has and I’m feeling good. The whole team have been so welcoming and made me feel at home, the age difference disappears as soon as I step onto the court. I believe in this team and what we can achieve, if I can play a part in getting us onto the podium then the hard work is all worthwhile.”6
At the 2022 FIBA World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October Jackson played off the bench and made an impact in her time on-court. During the group phase Jackson scored eight points against Mali in 11 minutes court-time and nine minutes against Serbia in 11 minutes court-time. Against Belgium in the Opals 86-69 victory Jackson scored 12 points in 14 minutes court-time.
On the day of the Opals bronze medal game against Canada Jackson announced that it would be her last game representing the Australian Opals. During the bronze medal game against Canada Jackson put on an exhibition to score a phenomenal game-high 30 points at an accuracy of 68.8% from the field in 21 minutes court-time to have a fairytale finish to her international career in the Opals 95-65 victory to win the bronze medal.
In the post-game press conference after Australia’s victory against Canada in the bronze medal game Jackson commented “This journey, I’ve said it before to all of you, it’s just been the most humbling but incredible ten months of my life. I said to Sandy after the game… just thank you for selecting me, because it’s given me the opportunity to just play the sport I love in front of Australia again and to say goodbye this way is just magnificent. I couldn’t have imagined it.” At the 2022 World Cup Jackson averaged 9.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 9.9 minutes per game. Jackson ranked third for the Opals in steals and fourth in scoring per game.
During the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Lauren Jackson will be making her WNBL return with the Southside Flyers. Australian Opals assistant coach Cheryl Chambers is the head coach of the Southside Flyers. At Southside Jackson will be teammates with fellow 2022 World Cup bronze medallist Sara Blicavs and will also play alongside Abby Bishop. Jackson and Bishop have been Australian Opals teammates at several tournaments including the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games and have also been teammates in the WNBL previously at Canberra including in the Capitals 2009/10 Championship winning season. Jackson played her first practice game for the Southside Flyers against Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium on 23 October.
Lauren Jackson making a presentation to Abby Bishop at Dandenong Stadium on 18 December 2021 for Bishop’s 200th WNBL game
WNBL Achievements: Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award 1997
Most Valuable Player Award 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2003/04
WNBL All-Star five 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04
WNBL Championship 1999 (With Australian Institute of Sport), 2001/02, 2002/03, 2005/06 and 2009/10 (With Canberra Capitals)
#7 Position: Guard
DOB 23 January 2004 Height 167cm
Junior Club Warragul Warriors (Victoria)
Yet to make WNBL debut
Dallas Loughridge grew up in South Gippsland and commenced her junior basketball career at six years of age with Poowong. Loughridge progressed to play representative basketball for Warragul Warriors and Dandenong Rangers. At each under-age championship from under 12s Loughridge was a member of a medal winning Vic Country team. Loughridge and Southside Flyers teammate Nyadiew Puoch have been teammates on teams at under—age level for the Dandenong Rangers, Victoria in the under 20’s and Australia as well as at senior level with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in NBL1.
At under-age level up until under 18s Loughridge and Puoch played for opposition teams with Loughridge suiting up for Vic Country and Puoch representing Vic Metro. At the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships Loughridge and Puoch were teammates on the gold medal winning Victorian team. In the final Loughridge scored 14 points. The Victoria Under-20 Women’s Head Coach Kerryn Mitchell has been appointed by the Southside Flyers as an Assistant Coach for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season.
At the 2021 FIBA Women’s Under 19 World Cup held in Hungary from 7-15 August Loughridge was a member of the Australian Gems team alongside Puoch. Loughridge scored 16 points at a field goal accuracy of 50% and had three assists in the Gems 99-28 victory against Egypt in their opening game of the tournament. In Australia’s 58-42 victory against Italy in the group stage Loughridge scored an equal game-high 10 points at a field goal accuracy of 50%. Loughridge played all seven games for the silver medal winning Gems and averaged 6.0 points and 1.3 assists per game. Loughridge ranked fifth for Australia in scoring.
Loughridge played 16 games for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence during the 2022 NBL1 season in wildcard games. In four games Loughridge scored more than 19 points. In BA CoE’s opening game of the season on 7 May against Eltham at Eltham High School Dallas scored a season-high 26 points at a field goal accuracy of 66.7%, took four rebounds and made an equal team-high three assists. During the 2022 NBL1 season Loughridge averaged 14.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Loughridge was a member of the Australian Gems team alongside Puoch at the FIBA 2022 Under 18 Asia Cup held in India from 5 to 11 September. In the final Loughridge scored 17 points and made a game-high eight assists for the Gems who defeated China 81-55 to win the gold medal. Throughout the tournament Loughridge was consistent, scoring at least 12 points in all five games. For the gold medal winning Gems Loughridge averaged 13.8 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 steals and 29.6 minutes per game. Point guard Loughridge led the Gems for minutes played, ranked second in steals and third in scoring. Dallas ranked third overall at the tournament in assists, fifth in scoring and equal seventh in steals.
In a Southside Flyers practice game against Bendigo Spirit on 22 October Loughridge injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and will miss the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season due to this injury.
Dallas Loughridg playing for the Southside Flyers in a practice game against New Zealand at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2022
#13 Position: Forward
DOB 23 June 2004 Height 186cm
Junior Club Dandenong Rangers (Victoria)
Yet to make WNBL debut
The Southside Flyers announced on 8 September 2022 that 18 year old forward Nyadiew Puoch had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Southside Flyers Head Coach Cheryl Chambers told WNBL Media “Nards is a very exciting young player who not only continues to learn but continues to improve her game. Her athleticism is something that really stands out and I am sure she will enjoy a successful WNBL career. She is sure to become a crowd favourite, particularly being a local Dandenong junior.”7
After watching her older brothers play basketball at Dandenong Nyadiew Puoch began playing the sport. Nyadiew played junior basketball for the Dandenong Rangers from Under 12s to Under 18s. At the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships Puoch represented Victoria and was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Puoch and Southside Flyers teammate Dallas Loughridge have been teammates on teams at under—age level for the Dandenong Rangers, Victoria in the under 20s and Australia as well as at senior level with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in NBL1.
At under-age level up until under 18s Puoch and Loughridge played for opposition teams with Puoch representing Vic Metro and Loughridge playing for Vic Country. Puoch was a member of gold medal winning Vic Metro teams at Australian Championships in 2019 and 2021. Playing for Victoria at the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships as a teammate of Loughridge’s Puoch scored 25 points and took 12 rebounds against South Australia Red. Victoria won the gold medal and Puoch was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game. The Victoria Under-20 Women’s Head Coach Kerryn Mitchell has been appointed by the Southside Flyers as an Assistant Coach for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season.
At the 2021 FIBA Women’s Under 19 World Cup held in Hungary from 7-15 August Puoch was a member of the Australian Gems team alongside Loughridge. In a quarter final against Canada Puoch scored a game-high 25 points, made three of five three-pointers at an accuracy of 60%, took seven rebounds including six offensive boards and made three steals in the Gems 72-61 victory after starting the game on the bench. In Australia’s 62-50 semi final victory against Mali Puoch scored 16 points at a field goal accuracy of 55.6%, took a team-high nine rebounds and blocked a game-high two shots. In the final Australia were defeated by USA 70-52 and won the silver medal. Puoch played all seven games for the Gems at the Under 19 World Cup and averaged 11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. Puoch ranked equal first for the Gems in blocked shots, second for the Gems in scoring and rebounds, equal third for steals and fourth for minutes played.
During the 2022 NBL1 season Puoch represented the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Wildcard games. In BA CoE’s final game of the season Puoch registered a double-double comprised of 18 points and 11 rebounds, shooting at 60% from the field in a 95-52 victory against Sutherland Sharks. Puoch played 16 games during the 2022 NBL1 season and averaged 11.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game
Puoch was a member of the Australian Gems team alongside Loughridge at the FIBA 2022 Under 18 Asia Cup held in India from 5 to 11 September. Puoch averaged 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.4 blocked shots and 25.6 minutes per game. Forward Puoch led the Gems in blocked shots, ranked third in rebounding, steals and minutes played and fourth in scoring. Puoch ranked fourth overall at the tournament for blocked shots.
Nyadiew Puoch playing for the Southside Flyers in a practice game against New Zealand at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2022
#3 Position: Guard
DOB 21 September 1993 Height 176cm
Junior Club Dandenong Rangers (Victoria)
WNBL debut: 2011/11 WNBL games played: 212
The Southside Flyers announced on 29 August 2022 that guard Aimie Rocci had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Flyers Head Coach Cheryl Chambers told wnbl.basketball “Aimie is a real pleasure to coach, she is a super athlete and puts real pressure on the opposition at both ends of the court. She is quick on her feet and can get to the rack, and her defensive work is fantastic, making her a real team player.” 8
Aimie Rocci (nee Clydesdale) was born in Noble Park and grew up in Endeavour Hills, a suburb approximately 35 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. Aimie played her junior basketball for the Dandenong Rangers and progressed to represent Victoria Metro at several under-age National Championships. Aimie and current Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs were members of the Victoria Metro team that won a gold medal at the 2008 under 16 National Championships.
Rocci represented the Australian Sapphires at the 2010 under 17 World Championships held in France and was a member of the Australian Gems team that finished fourth at the 2011 under 19 World Championships held in Chile.
Aimie made her WNBL debut as a development player at 17 years of age for the Dandenong Rangers during the 2010/11 season. As a development player Rocci played a total of 11 WNBL games across the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons and was a member of the Jayco Rangers WNBL championship winning team in the latter season.
Point guard Rocci became a member of the Dandenong Rangers core rotation during the 2012/13 WNBL season and took on more responsibility over time, culminating in being a Jayco Rangers co-captain along with Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and was the Rangers starting point guard in the latter season. Rocci played 29 games for the Jayco Dandenong Rangers in 2016/17 and averaged 7.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game to set new career-highs in all three categories.
From 2010 to 2017 Rocci played two seasons a year for the Dandenong Rangers, playing for the Rangers in the South Eastern Australian Basketball League (SEABL) in between WNBL seasons. Rocci played in four SEABL Championships with the Dandenong Rangers – 2011, 2012, 2015 & 2016. Rocci was the captain of the Rangers 2016 SEABL championship winning team and earnt selection in the 2016 All-SEABL team.
Rocci represented the Emerging Opals team at the 2015 and 2017 World University Games, Australia won the gold medal in 2017. Aimie represented Australia’s senior women’s team, the Opals in a three-game series against Japan in July 2015. Game one of the series was on her home court, Dandenong Stadium.
After playing seven consecutive seasons for the Jayco Dandenong Rangers from 2010/11 to 2016/17 Rocci signed a two-year deal with Adelaide Lightning for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. In 2017/18 Rocci averaged 9.9 points and 3.6 assists per game – ranked 12th in the WNBL among players that played at least three games.
Rocci returned to the WNBL’s Dandenong based club which was rebranded the Southside Flyers for the 2019/20 WNBL season. Rocci will be playing her fourth consecutive season for the Southside Flyers in the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. During the 2019/20 and 2020 WNBL seasons Rocci predominantly played as the Flyers sixth woman. The Flyers won consecutive minor premierships in 2019/20 and 2020. In both seasons Rocci was called into the starting line-up late in the season due to injuries to then Southside Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea. Rocci was a starter in the Southside Flyers 2020 Grand Final side that defeated Townsville 99-82 to win the WNBL Championship. During the 2020 regular season Rocci ranked eighth in the WNBL with 3.9 assists per game.
Aimie Rocci playing for the Southside Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019
In April 2021 Aimie married Maddy Rocci’s older brother Kristian. Maddy joined Aimie at the Southside Flyers in 2021/22. Aimie commenced the 2021/22 season as the Southside Flyers sixth women, however due to a mixture of injuries and COVID-19 the Flyers were rarely at full strength and Aimie started 12 of the 14 games she played for Southside in 2021/22. In 2021/22 Aimie averaged 3.6 assists per game, ranked second at Southside behind sister-in-law Maddy (4.6 assists per game) and equal 13th in the league.
The Southside Flyers announced to the team at training on Monday morning 24 October that Aimie Rocci had been appointed club captain for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Rocci becomes the Southside Flyers second captain, taking over the role from Jenna O’Hea who was the Flyer captain in their first three seasons from 2019/20 to 2021/22 which including two Grand Final appearances and a Championship win in 2020.
On being appointed the Southside Flyers captain Rocci commented at the club’s season launch held at The Price Hotel on Monday evening 24 October “It is an incredible honour, it really is, I can’t say that enough. I love this club, have been a Flyer since the club was established and we are fortunate to have such great people around us. I really pride myself on being a good teammate and that’s what I’ll continue to do. It’s humbling and lovely that the players consider me a leader. I am not going to try to walk in Jenna’s shoes, that is not me, I will be myself. We are very fortunate to have some outstanding leaders at the Flyers, and great role models, particularly for our younger players to learn from. As for me, I am sure I will be learning plenty from Lauren Jackson and asking her plenty of questions during the season. I still can’t believe I am going to be playing with her at the Flyers. It is great for us and great for the league.”9
An article was published on Milestones and Misses on 22 December 2021 to celebrate Rocci reaching 200 WNBL games. A link to this article is provided below:
Aimie Rocci receiving a presentation for her 200th WNBL game from Southside Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers and Lauren Jackson
WNBL Achievements: WNBL Championship 2011/12 (with Dandenong Rangers), 2020 (with Southside Flyers)
#9 Position: Guard
DOB 1 June 1998 Height 169cm
Junior Club Werribee Devils (Victoria)
WNBL debut: 2017/18 WNBL games played: 102
As a junior Maddison Rocci commenced her basketball career at 11 years of age with the Werribee Devils in Melbourne’s western suburbs.Rocci progressed to represent Vic Metro at National Championships in the under 16’s, under 18’s and under 20’s and played for the Australian under 17’s and under 19’s teams. Rocci was the captain of the 2015 Under 18 Victoria Metro team that won the gold medal and was a starter for Australia at the 2017 Under 19 World Cup until an arm injury ended her tournament.
In 2017/18 Rocci made her WNBL debut at 19 years of age for the University of Canberra Capitals and finished runner-up in the league’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award behind then Capitals teammate Ezi Magbegor.
Maddison Rocci playing for the University of Canberra Capitals against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 18 November 2017
In 2018/19 and 2019/20 Rocci played in back to back WNBL Championships with the University of Canberra Capitals and took on more responsibility during this time. During 2018/2019 Rocci started some games early in the season due to injuries to team-mates and then became a permanent starter in 2019/20.
Maddison Rocci playing for the University of Canberra Capitals against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 9 November 2019
Playing in the Queensland Basketball League in 2020 Rocci flourished being the go-to player for University of the Sunshine Coast Rip City, averaging 32.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. In July 2020 Rocci was included in the extended 23 player Australian Opals squad for the Tokyo Olympic Games and attended several Opals training camps.
During the 2020 WNBL season guard Rocci took her basketball to another stratosphere, excelling with her speed, reading of the play and quick hands to rank in the top 10 of the WNBL for scoring, assists and steals. Rocci was recognised for her brilliant season by winning the University of Canberra Capitals Most Valuable Player Award, was selected in the All-WNBL Second team and finished fifth in the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
Rocci returned to Victoria to play for the Southside Flyers during the 2021/22 WNBL season and was a team-mate of sister in law Aimie. Maddison averaged 4.6 assists (sixth in the WNBL) and 1.7 steals (seventh in the WNBL) per game and played her 100th WNBL game on 10 March 2022.
Below is a link to an article published on Milestone and Misses on 10 March 2022 celebrating Rocci reaching 100 WNBL games:
Maddison Rocci playing for the Jayco Southside Flyers against the Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 11 December 2021
After attending several Opals training camps Rocci made her debut appearance for the Australian Opals at the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia in February and played all three games for Australia.
During the 2022 NBL1 North season Rocci scored at least 20 points in 11 of her 12 games for US Rip City and registered three double-doubles. Rocci averaged 26.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.1 steals per game to rank second in the league in scoring, rank third for steals and ninth for assists.
On 23 September 2022 the Jayco Southside Flyers announced that Maddy Rocci had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Southside Head Coach Chambers told WNBL Media “We were fortunate to add such a quality young player to our team last year, she continued to grow during the season and will no doubt take her game to another level this year. Her speed is supported by quick hands, and she reads the play well. While we know she can score, she is also a very tough defensive player. Last year also confirmed what a quality person Maddy is and her input on and off the court is important.”10
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL Second Team 2020
WNBL Championship 2018/19, 2019/20 (both with University of Canberra Capitals)
#6 Position: Forward
DOB 20 October 1992 Height 185cm
Yet to make WNBL debut:
To complete their 10 player main roster for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season the Southside Flyers announced on 24 October that they had signed American import Kayla Thornton. Southside Head coach Cheryl Chambers told wnbl.basketball “Kayla is going to be an exciting player in the league. She is very athletic and is super competitive and really hits the boards hard. Her athleticism makes her very difficult to match-up and she is also a very good 3-point shooter as well as being able to defend most positions. I think Flyers fans are going to really enjoy watching her play and I know she will have a big impact in the WNBL.“11
Kayla Thornton was born in Germany whilst her parents were serving overseas in the military and grew up in Texas, United States of America. In a four season college basketball career for University of Texas at El Paso as a forward from 2010/11 to 2013/14. In 185 centimetre tall Thornton’s senior season with UTEP she averaged 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and became the first player in UTEP Miners history to average a double-double for a season. Thornton played 128 games and averaged 13.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Thornton was selected in the All-Conference USA Second team in 2011/12 and 2012/13 and earned selection on the First Team in her senior 2013/14 season.
In 2015 Kayla Thornton signed a training camp contract with WNBA club Washington Mystics. Thornton made her WNBA debut with Washington in 2015 and played 10 games for the club. From 2017 to 2022 Thornton played six consecutive WNBA seasons for the Dallas Wings. After having zero starts in 2015 and one start in 2017 Thornton started 32 of her 34 games in 2018. Thornton’s output increased in each of first four WNBA seasons and in her fourth WNBA season in 2019 she averaged 10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Thornton has played a total of 194 regular season WNBA games including 132 as a starter and has averaged 7.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 25.4 minutes per game during her career. In each of Thornton’s six seasons with Dallas she has averaged more than 6.5 points per game. During the 2022 WNBA season with Dallas Wings Thornton had a career-high field goal accuracy of 46.9%.
Playing in Korea for Cheongju KB Stars during the WKBL 2018/19 season Thornton excelled to be selected in First-Team All Korea, won the Player of the Year and Import Player of the Year awards. Cheongju KB Stars had a record of 28 wins and seven losses for the season and won the WKBL Championship defeating Blue Minx three games to nil in the finals. Thornton registered 18 double-doubles for the season including 29 points and 14 rebounds in game 3 of the finals.
Head Coach – Cheryl Chambers
Cheryl Chambers has extensive experience as a player and head coach in the WNBL, having played a total of 267 WNBL games for Nunawading, Coburg, Bulleen and Melbourne Tigers and has been a Head Coach in the league for 283 games. Chambers’ 14 seasons as a WNBL head coach are comprised of eight seasons with the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers from 2001/02 to 2008/09, three seasons with the Sydney Uni Flames from 2016/17 to 2018/19 and the past three seasons with the Southside Flyers from 2019/20 to 2021/22.
Cheryl Chambers with Bec Cole at the pre-game presentation for Cole’s 200th WNBL game against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on 23 December 2021
In between her first and second stint as a WNBL Head Coach Chambers spent some time as an Assistant Coach to Guy Molloy at the Melbourne Boomers. Chambers has been the Head Coach of two WNBL teams that have won Championships – the Sydney Uni Flames in 2016/17 and the Southside Flyers in 2020. Chambers has won the WNBL’s Coach of the Year Award three times comprised of twice with the Bulleen Boomers in 2004/05 and 2008/09 and once with the Sydney Uni Flames in their Championship winning 2016/17 season.
Chambers has experience as a head coach of Australian representative sides at under-age level including the Australian Gems team that won a bronze medal at the FIBA Women’s 2013 under 19 World Championships.
Between 2005 and 2007 Chambers was an Assistant Coach of the Opals and commenced a second stint in this role in May 2017 with Sandy Brondello as the Opals Head Coach. In the past five years with Chambers as an Assistant Coach the Opals won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, silver at the 2018 World Cup, bronze at the 2022 World Cup and have won medals at the Asia Cup in 2017 (silver), 2019 (bronze) and 2021 (bronze).
WNBL Achievements (as a coach): WNBL Coach of the Year 2004/05, 2008/09 (both with the Bulleen Boomers), 2016/17 (Sydney Uni Flames)
Coach of WNBL Championship 2016/17 (Sydney Uni Flames), 2020 (Southside Flyers)
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
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 and WNBL category is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin