On Saturday 21 January Southside Flyers forward Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic) reached 250 WNBL games in a Round 11 road victory against the University of Canberra Capitals at the National Convention Centre. Throughout her career 196 centimetre tall Ernst’s greatest strengths have been her outside shooting, athleticism and shot blocking.
Ernst made her WNBL debut at 15 years of age on 19 December 2009 with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and played four games in the 2009/10 season but then missed the entire 2010/11 season with a knee injury. Ernst was a revelation in 2011/12, playing 18 games for the AIS and averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game to win the 2011/12 Betty Watson WNBL Rookie of the Year Award.
As a junior Ernst represented Victoria and Australia at several tournaments. Ernst played a pivotal role in the Australian Gems winning a bronze medal at the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship for Women held in Lithuania. At the tournament Ernst led the Gems for points and blocked shots, and ranked second for minutes played behind Steph Talbot.
Since graduating from the AIS Ernst has played in the WNBL for Dandenong Rangers in two stints, Canberra Capitals, Adelaide Lightning, Perth Lynx, Bendigo Spirit, Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers.
Ernst has been extremely durable during the last decade of her basketball career. From 3 March 2013 until the end of the 2020 hub season Ernst played 177 consecutive WNBL games. During this streak Ernst had eight consecutive WNBL seasons playing every game possible for her WNBL club, commencing in 2013/14.
Ernst finished in the top 10 of the 2016/17 WNBL MVP Award playing for Perth Lynx and won back-to-back club MVP Awards playing for Bendigo Spirit in 2019/20 and 2020. Ernst has averaged at least 12.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in four seasons, 2017/18 with Dandenong Rangers as well as 2016/17, 2019/20 and 2020.
On 14 April 2014 Ernst was selected by the Washington Mystics with selection 30 in the third round of the 2014 WNBA draft. After the 2017/18 WNBL season concluded Ernst joined Romanian club APS Sepsi SIC mid-season for the 2017/18 Liga Nationala season. Ernst was a member of the APS Sepsi SIC team that won the 2017/18 Romanian Championship. Ernst led APS Sepsi SIC for blocked shots and rebounds per game and ranked second for points.
On 8 September 2021 Ernst had her first child, son Kylan. Four months later Ernst made her WNBL return with the Melbourne Boomers in January 2022 playing off the bench and went on to be a member of the Boomers team that won the 2021/22 WNBL Championship in April.
In a role off the bench for the Southside Flyers in the current 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Ernst has been damaging from long range, making 19 of 35 three-pointers at an accuracy of 54.3% to lead the league for three-point accuracy amongst players that have made at least five shots from behind the arc.
Carly Ernst making a three-pointer in the fourth quarter of Southside Flyers victory against Bendigo Spirit on 6 January 2023 at the State Basketball Centre
Since making her WNBL return in January 2022, four months after having Kylan Ernst has played 31 consecutive games. Ernst is one of 10 mothers playing in the WNBL during the 2022/23 WNBL season, including three Southside Flyers frontcourt players with Ernst being joined in this category by Lauren Jackson and Abby Bishop.
Throughout her WNBL career Ernst has ranked in the league’s top 10 for three-pointers made per game in five seasons including three consecutive seasons from 2015/16 to 2017/18. Ernst has ranked in the league’s top 20 for blocked shots per game in a season nine times.
Reflecting on her WNBL career and the journey to 250 games Ernst told WNBL Media “My first game was back at AIS when they had a team… I can’t remember who it was against but I’m pretty sure we got flogged. But no, it was a crazy experience being so young. When I think about it 250 games are a lot, one game is a lot so when think I’ve done 250 it doesn’t quite feel like it. But it’s a really exciting milestone in my career so I am pretty stoked about it.”1
Ernst was one of six players that made their WNBL debut with the AIS on 19 December 2009 in a home game at the AIS Training Hall against the Jayco Dandenong Rangers. Three of the players that made their WNBL debut for the AIS in the same game as Ernst have all played over 200 WNBL games and are currently playing in the league, Southside Flyers teammates Sara Blicavs and Bec Cole along with Bendigo Spirit guard Tessa Lavey. On the current 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season with Southside and being teammates with Blicavs and Cole again Ernst told wnbl.basketball “I’m loving it, we’ve got a great bunch of girls, girls who I went through the AIS with and I’ve played with before so it’s a pretty special group and I’m really enjoying it.”2
At 28 years of age Ernst became the sixth player on a 2022/23 WNBL roster to reach 250 WNBL games in their career, joining Bendigo Spirit point guard Kelly Wilson, Melbourne Boomers duo Mia Murray (nee Newley) and Cayla George (nee Francis) along with Southside Flyers frontcourt teammates Abby Bishop and Sara Blicavs.
In reaching 250 WNBL games Ernst becomes the 77th person to receive WNBL Life Membership. Ernst’s 250 game milestone will be celebrated at the Southside Flyers home game against Sydney Flames tonight, 4 February at John Cain Arena, the game starts at 6.30pm AEDT, tickets are on sale at Ticketek.
The basketball career of Carley Ernst from playing at junior level with Victoria and Australia though to playing in the WNBL is comprehensively covered below:
Early life and junior career
Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic) was born on 1 August 1994 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.
In a video for SEABL TV in April 2014 Ernst commented on when she started playing basketball, saying “I was about six, back in Melbourne and I started playing because my brother played, I remember training with the boys when I was young.”
In an interview with Basketball Victoria Carley commented on playing her junior basketball with the Rangers. “Dandenong Rangers were really good for me as a club growing up as we had access to coaches other clubs didn’t have. It was a good association to be part of and grow as a player.”3 Impressive performances for Dandenong Rangers resulted in the opportunity for Ernst to accept a scholarship at 15 years of age and move to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra.
Carley 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. Team-mates of Carley’s in the 2010 Under 18 Vic Metro team included current Southside Flyers teammates Sara Blicavs and Aimie Rocci (nee Clydesdale) as well as another two players who’s junior Association was Dandenong and later played in the WNBL for multiple clubs including the Rangers – Rosie Fadljevic and Tenaya Sooalo (nee Phillips).
Ernst represented the Australian Sapphires in the 2010 FIBA Under 17 World Championships for Women held in Rodez and Toulouse France from 16 to 25 July. Australia were in Group B which played their games in Toulouse. The Sapphires had a group record of three wins against Spain, Argentina and Mali, and two losses against Belgium and China. The Australian Sapphires finished third in their group and seventh overall. Ernst averaged 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 13.0 minutes per game. Carley ranked fourth for the Sapphires in scoring per game and equal fourth in rebounding.
In an interview with television channel SBS just before the 2011 Under 19 world championships in Chile Carley’s aunty Zorica commented on the development of Carley’s game saying “A lot of the coaches had to work on her post moves and all that, but it all came quite easy, her outside shot was there, her drive to the basket, running with the guards, ball skills.”
At the 2011 FIBA Under 19 World Championships for Women held in Chile from 21 to 31 July Ernst was the youngest member of the Australian Gems team that finished fourth. Ernst played three of the Gems eight games at the tournament and averaged 4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 9.3 minutes per game.
Ernst was a member of the Australian Gems team that won the 2012 Under 18 Women’s Oceania Championship. Australia defeated New Zealand 3 games to nil, having a 72-65 victory in game 1 followed by victories of more than 25 points in games 2 and 3. In game 3 Ernst registered a double double comprised of 19 points and 13 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories. Ernst averaged 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game to rank second for Australia in both categories.
After achieving individual and team success at the Reze International Basketball Tournament lead-up event Carley was full of confidence for the 2013 Under 19 World Championships. Seven nations that were competing at the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship for Women played in the 25th edition of the Reze International Basketball Tournament as a warm-up event. Australia defeated France 66-60 in the final, it was the second time that the Australian Gems won the Reze International tournament. Ernst led the Gems in scoring and minutes played for the tournament and won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
Just before the 2013 Under 19 World Championships Ernst commented “We have all come into this tournament in really good shape as a team. We proved in Reze what we are capable of and that we can get this gold medal. Getting MVP in Reze was really exciting and a great achievement for me personally, but as one of the captains of the team, winning the tournament and having everyone contribute was also a highlight.”4
At the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship for Women held in Lithuania from 18 – 28 July Ernst was a member of the Australian Gems team. Team-mates of Ernst in the team included Steph Talbot, Lauren Scherf, Alex Wilson, Tahlia Tupaea, Darcee Garbin and Vanessa Panousis. 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 and 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.
Ernst played all nine of games for the Gems, averaging 14.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 26.7 minutes per game. Ernst ranked first for Australia for points and blocked shots ranked second for minutes played behind Talbot and fourth for rebounds. USA won the gold medal, defeating France 61-28. The top four nations all had one player in the Tournament’s All-Star five along with Canada, with Talbot being the Gem selected in the team.
Playing in the WNBL with the Australian Institute of Sport from 2009/10 to 2011/12
In late November 2009 Ernst was announced as one of eight players receiving an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) scholarship in Canberra with the women’s basketball team. Ernst was one of five Victorians to receive a scholarship along with Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole, Tessa Lavey and Maddie Garrick. Other players to receive a scholarship were the ACT’s Alex Bunton along with South Australian’s Olivia Levicki (nee Thompson) and Georgie Minear. The AIS team competed in the WNBL and was comprised of players between 15 and 19 years of age which made it difficult to compete with the more experienced and battle-hardened players on rival WNBL teams.
Ernst made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 15 years of age on 19 December 2009 in a home game against the Jayco Dandenong Rangers at the AIS Training Hall. On debut for the AIS Carley scored eight points and took three rebounds in 14 minutes and 26 seconds court-time in a 51-102 loss.
Another five AIS players made their debut in the same game – current Southside Flyers teammates Blicavs and Cole along with current Bendigo Spirit guard Lavey, Levicki and Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett). This group of six players have had very successful supporting careers. The four players that are currently playing in the WNBL have each played over 220 games – Lavey (223 games), Cole (227), Ernst became the second player from this crop to reach 250 WNBL games following Blicavs who achieved the milestone in late December 2022. Bueta switched sports to netball in 2012 and has represented the Queensland Firebirds and Australian Diamonds. Levicki played 190 games in her WNBL career and in 2022 made her AFLW debut with Port Adelaide.
Articles have been published on Milestones and Misses comprehensively covering the careers of Blicavs, Cole and Lavey. Below are links to articles on Cole and Lavey, to the WNBL milestone games category of Milestones and Misses as well as the home page:
An article is in progress to celebrate Blicavs reaching 250 WNBL games and scoring 3,000 career points in the WNBL.
In her debut WNBL season Ernst played four games for the AIS in 2009/10, averaging 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 15.1 minutes per game, teammate Roberts won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award.
Due to two major knee surgeries Ernst missed the entire 2010/11 WNBL season. Ernst commented on the knee injury “I had an injury with my left knee when I tore my meniscus and had to get it repaired and I was in a leg brace for a while. I had hoped that it was going to grow back together when they had stitched it up, but it didn’t. So I had to go in for surgery again and just have it removed. It was very frustrating.”5
Several of Ernst’s AIS team-mates for the 2011/12 season were also in their third season with the club however had played considerably more WNBL basketball than Ernst who only played a total of four games in her first two seasons at the AIS during 2009/10 and 2010/11. Carley made her return from her left knee injury in Round 1 of the 2011/12 WNBL season with the AIS in a road game against the Sydney Flames on 7 October 2011, scored eight points and took six rebounds from 16 minutes and 58 seconds court-time.
AIS captain Cole played just two games in 2011/12 before injuring her right knee at an early season AIS training session and required a knee reconstruction.
In a Round 5 road game against the Sydney Flames on 5 November Ernst fell narrowly short of recording a double-double. Ernst scored a team-high and then career-high 21 points – seven more than the AIS’s second ranked player for the game, took nine rebounds – ranked second for the AIS, and shot the ball at 45% from the field in 29 minutes and 48 seconds court-time.
In the AIS’s second last game of 2011/12 season, a 77-90 loss against Canberra on 8 February 2012 at AIS Arena Ernst shot the ball at 50% from the field, scored a game-high 17 points, took seven rebounds and made an equal team-high two steals in 16 minutes game time. After the game AIS Head Coach Phil Brown commented on Ernst “She’s very talented offensively, an inside-outside type who has a lot of different weapons. The challenge for her is to continue to work on getting her body stronger.”6
For much of her time on court against Canberra Ernst was opposed to Marianna Tolo who was full of praise for Carley, commenting post-game ”She’s got really good shooting touch, you can’t give her a sniff and she’s got great length. She uses it really well, took it to the post a couple of times and can nail the perimeter shots. She moves likes she’s never had knee surgery before, she’s pretty agile.”7
The AIS finished in last position in 2011/12 with a record of two wins, 20 losses and a percentage of 69.0%, level on wins with West Coast whose percentage was 76.1%. During 2011/12 Ernst flourished in 18 games for the AIS, averaging 9.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 19.4 minutes per game. Ernst ranked fourth at the AIS for scoring per game behind Blicavs (12.3 points per game), Levicki (10.2) and Cole (9.5) and ranked third in rebounding and blocked shots. Ernst was one of 10 AIS players that played at least 14 games for the season and averaged more than 14 minutes per game. Players that were in this category for the AIS along with Ernst, Blicavs and Levicki were Casey Samuels, Tessa Lavey, Maddie Garrick, Alex Bunton, Darcee Garbin, Rosie Fadljevic and Mikhaela Donnelly. Whilst at the AIS Ernst played a total of 22 games and made 11 of 30 three-pointers at an accuracy of 36.7%.
On 26 March 2012 Ernst won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award at 17 years of age for her performances with the AIS during 2011/12, becoming the 15th AIS player in the award’s history to win the ROTY. Previous winners of the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year award include Lauren Jackson (1996), Laura Hodges (2000/01), Kathleen MacLeod (2003/04), Abby Bishop (20005/06) and Cayla George (2006/07).
2011/12 was the AIS’s last season in the WNBL as changes were made to the Basketball program at the AIS. Whilst the program has continued to be located at the AIS in Canberra it is referred to as the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (COE). Basketball Australia CoE men’s and women’s teams competed at state league level, firstly in the SEABL and then in NBL1. In 2023 the men’s and women’s BA CoE teams will both be competing in the NBL1 East Conference.
Playing in the WNBL from 2012/13 to 2014/15
From 2012/13 to 2014/15 Ernst played for three different WNBL clubs, Dandenong (2012/13), Canberra (2013/14) and Adelaide (2014/15). For the 2012/13 season Ernst and current Southside Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs both joined reigning WNBL Champions the Dandenong Rangers. The Rangers starters were Kathleen Macleod, Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming), Jenna O’Hea, Alison Downie and Canadian import Krista Phillips. The Rangers bench included sixth woman Tegan Cunningham, Blicavs, Ernst, Aimie Rocci (nee Clydesdale) and Rosie Fadljevic. The Rangers five starters for the 2012/13 season along with Cunningham and Rocci had all been members of the club’s 2011/12 WNBL Championship winning team.
The Dandenong Rangers two AIS recruits made an impact in their first game with the club to play their role in 90-75 victory against the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers at Dandenong Stadium on 5 October 2012. Ernst scored 12 points and took six rebounds in 16 minutes and 40 seconds court-time whilst Blicavs scored a game-high 19 points and made eight rebounds from 26 minutes and 2 seconds court-time.
In a Round 3 home game against the West Coast Waves (now Perth Lynx) at Dandenong Stadium on 21 October Ernst made eight of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53.3%, scored 17 points, had a game-high 12 rebounds – four more than the second ranked player for the game in 21 minutes and 28 seconds court-time. Ernst’s 12 rebounds included a game-high seven offensive rebounds which accounted for just under half of the Rangers 16 offensive boards.
In Ernst’s first five games of the 2011/12 season she averaged 11.2 points and 18 minutes court-time per game, scoring at least seven points in every game, however as the season progressed her court-time was reduced. A third of the way into the season the Rangers further strengthened their roster with the recruitment of American import guard Monica Wright.
During a Round 17 game against Logan at Dandenong Stadium on 1 February Ernst registered a double comprised of 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in 26 minutes and 13 seconds court-time in the 87-67 victory. Carley also made three steals and blocked a game-high four shots. In the following game against Townsville Ernst played less than seven minutes court-time.
Dandenong finished second on the ladder with a record of 19 wins, five losses and a league leading 120%, two games behind Bendigo and one game ahead of Adelaide. Dandenong lost their semi final on the road to Bendigo 71-78 and then were upset in a home preliminary final at Dandenong Stadium by Townsville 64-78.
During 2012/13 Ernst played 23 of a possible 26 games for the Jayco Rangers, averaging 6.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.7 blocked shots and 13.3 minutes per game. Ernst ranked third at Dandenong for blocked shots, fourth for three-pointers made, eighth for points and rebounds per game and ninth for minutes played. Ernst made 11 of 35 three-pointers at an accuracy of 31.4%.
At Canberra in 2013/14 and at Adelaide in 2014/15 Ernst was teammates with fellow frontcourt player Alex Bunton. Ernst and Bunton had been team-mates at the AIS for three seasons and on Australian under-age teams. When they first arrived at the AIS Ernst and Bunton referred to themselves as Twin Towers, however given that they were the youngest players on the Capitals roster they were given the nickname ‘baby bigs’ at the Capitals in 2013/14. Whilst they were the same age, height and both played in the front-court they performed their role in a different manner with Ernst being a far greater threat from the outside and Bunton making a greater impact in the paint.
At the Capitals Ernst and Bunton were able to learn from one of the best front court players in the WNBL, Abby Bishop who had represented the Opals at the 2012 Olympic games in London and had been selected in the WNBL All-Star Five in 2008/09. Nine seasons later in 2022/23 Ernst, Bunton and Bishop are all mothers playing in the WNBL and the league has a total of 10 mothers playing in the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Ernst and Bishop are teammates at the Southside Flyers.
Bishop was one of three players that averaged more than 30 minutes per game for the Capitals in 2013/14 along with current Adelaide Lightning Head Coach Nat Hurst and Carly Wilson. Other players in the Capitals eight player core rotation that each averaged more than 12.0 minutes per game and played at least 19 games for the season were Ernst, Bunton, Jess Bibby, Nicole Hunt and French import guard Isabelle Strunc. On club debut for Canberra Ernst scored 15 points and took five rebounds in 26 minutes and 49 seconds court-time in a Round 1 home game against Sydney at AIS Arena on 5 October 2013.
In a Round 5 home game against the Dandenong Rangers on 2 November at AIS Arena Ernst scored a team-high 19 points shooting at 50% from the field, made two of three three-pointers at 66.7%, took five rebounds, made three assists and blocked three shots in a Capitals 86-92 loss.
Although Ernst had changed teams her 2013/14 season with the Canberra Capitals followed a similar pattern to her 2012/13 season with Dandenong, playing considerably more court-time and scoring more points in the first third of the season than she did during the last two thirds of the season. In five of her first seven games of 2013/14 with the Capitals Ernst scored at least 12 points, averaging 13.6 points and 25 minutes per game over this seven-game period.
Playing for Canberra Capitals in Round 15 of the 2013/14 season Ernst recorded a double-double in a 96-65 victory against the West Coast Waves in a home-game at Southern Cross Stadium on 18 January, scoring 20 points, took 10 rebounds – ranked second for the game behind Bishop with 12 and blocked two shots. Ernst shot the ball proficiently to make seven of her 13 field goal attempts including four of her six three-pointers to shoot the ball at 54% from the field in 23 minutes and 1 second of court-time.
Canberra had 10 wins and 14 losses in 2013/14 to finish 7th on the ladder out of nine teams, four games behind the fourth placed Melbourne Boomers. During 2013/14 Ernst played all 24 games for the Canberra Capitals and averaged 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 20.4 minutes per game. Ernst ranked fourth at Canberra for points per game behind Bishop (18.6), Bibby (14.9) and Hurst (13.9), first for blocked shots, fourth for rebounds, sixth for three-pointers made and minutes played. Ernst shot the ball at a career-best 48% from the field and made 17 of her 41 three-pointers for an accuracy of 41.5% ranked third at Canberra of the players that made at least five shots from behind the arc. Ernst’s 1.2 blocked shots per game
In April 2014 Ernst commented to Pakenham Officer Star News on the 2013/14 season with the Capitals missing the finals “I thought it was a bit disappointing with the result, but I think I learnt lots during that season and Carrie Graf, our coach, she was good for me and playing and training with Abby Bishop, I learned a lot off her.”8
Ernst and Bunton both left Canberra and joined Adelaide Lightning for the 2014/15 WNBL season. The Twin Towers/baby bigs were able to play and train alongside another of the premier front-court players in the game in Laura Hodges (nee Summerton) who had been selected in the WNBL All-Star five in 2013/14 and had represented Australia at the previous three Olympic Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Adelaide head coach Jeremi Moule had previously coached Ernst at the Australian junior Championships.
In a Round 3 road game against Townsville on 31 October Ernst led Adelaide in scoring with 16 points in 15 minutes and 26 seconds court-time, shooting at 55% from the field and was exceptional from beyond the arc – making all three three-pointers, no other Adelaide player scored more than seven points.
Against West Coast Waves in a home game on 4 January at Adelaide Arena Ernst scored 14 points, took seven rebounds and made four assists – ranked second for Adelaide behind Angela Marino with six, and blocked one shot in a 78-61 victory.
Adelaide had seven wins and 15 losses during 2014/15 to finish seventh on the ladder out of eight teams, three wins ahead of the West Coast Waves and four games behind the fourth placed Sydney Flames. During 2014/15 Ernst played 22 games for the Adelaide Lightning, averaging 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.6 blocked shots and 16.2 minutes per game. Ernst ranked sixth at Adelaide for points and rebounds per game, second for blocked shots and seventh for minutes played.
Selected by Washington Mystics with pick 30 at the 2014 WNBA Draft
On 14 April 2014 Ernst was selected by the Washington Mystics with selection 30 in the third round of the 2014 WNBA draft. Ernst was one of two Australian’s selected along with one of her team-mates from the bronze medal winning Gems team from the 2013 Australian under 19 team in Steph Talbot who was selection three picks after Mijovic at number 33 by the Phoenix Mercury.
After being drafted by Washington Ernst commented “I’m still not too sure what I want to do yet. I’m not 100 per cent sure if I want to go this year, but we’ll wait and see once I talk to the right people. I’ve just got to weigh up my options and see if I’m ready to go yet. I think wherever I go girls are going to have stronger bodies than me, I’m that kind of build. I guess I have to start to learn to use what I have got, and how I can use my strengths against them.”9
Later in April 2014 Ernst reflected on the moment she had been draft by Washington and told Jarrod Potter for a Pakenham Officer Star News article “I’m quite excited – I was on the phone to my mum then I got off the phone and I was tagged on a tweet on Twitter and that’s how I found out. I didn’t expect it so there was a bit of shock. I just qualified for it (WNBA Draft) because I’m 19 now and any team can get anyone really.”10
Ernst decided to remain in Australia for the 2014 WNBA season and worked on her game playing for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE) in the SEABL.
Playing in the WNBL for Perth Lynx in 2015/16 and 2016/17
In April 2015 National Basketball League Club (NBL) the Perth Wildcats announced that they had acquired WNBL club the West Coast Waves and as part of the acquisition the Waves would be re-branded as the Perth Lynx and would wear a predominantly red uniform like the Wildcats. The club had been known as the Perth Breakers from 1988 to 2000/01 before changing their name to the Perth Lynx from 2001/02 to 2009/10 and then to the West Coast Waves for 2010/11 to 2014/15 with the club winning one WNBL championship in 1992. Perth Wildcats owner the late Jack Bendat commented “This is a big moment for basketball in Western Australia. We see enormous potential in this brand and expect significant growth in membership, corporate support and crowds at Perth Lynx home games. The acquisition also allows us to double our positive impact on the local community, where Lynx players will serve as role models for West Australians, particularly young girls.”11
Ernst signed with Perth Lynx for the 2015/16 WNBL season in early June 2015, commenting “I love to shoot the three, which is a little unusual for someone in my position, but I love to shoot it. I’m very agile and I like to get up and down the floor. It means a lot to sign with the Perth Lynx. It’s under new ownership and they’re taking professionalism in women’s sport to a new level, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I’m excited about being involved with the community here and getting the Perth Lynx name out there.”12
During the Perth Lynx basketball video Perth Lynx – smashing the glass ceiling published on 11 November 2013 Perth Head Coach Stewart commented on Ernst “Carley’s a great three-point shot, excellent pull-through on her drive, to be as athletic as she is, to be as long she is, very, very exciting.”
196 centimetre tall Ernst faced strong competition for court-time in the power forward and centre positions from Perth Lynx team-mates Natalie Burton (194 centimetres tall) and Louella Tomlinson (193 cm). At 21 years of age Carley had considerably less experience than Tomlinson and Burton who were 27 and 26 years of age respectively during the 2015/16 season. At the start of the 2015/16 season Perth’s starting line-up was shooting guard Sami Whitcomb and small forward Betnijah Laney as American imports along with point guard Tessa Lavey and power forwards/centres Natalie Burton and Louella Tomlinson. Ernst and Toni Farnwoth (nee Edmondson) were playing off the bench at the start of the season. Andy Stewart was in his first season as Head Coach of Perth Lynx. Lavey was appointed Perth Lynx captain.
At the start of the 2015/16 WNBL season with Tomlinson and Burton preferred as starters for Perth Ernst averaged just 11 minutes court-time during the first six games of the season. Early in the 2016/17 season Perth Lynx Head Coach Andy Stewart commented on the tough love he and the other Perth coaches provided for Ernst during the 2015/16 season, saying “She started on the bench for us (last season) and we had specific things we wanted her to adjust. The first few weeks it didn’t happen. When she did something unacceptable we would pull her out of the game, it was tough on her.”13
Having scored more than six points only once in her first six games of 2015/16 Mijovic was extremely effective in Round 6, scoring more than 15 points in both games off the bench, firstly in a home game against the Dandenong Rangers and secondly in a road game against the Bendigo Spirit. Against the Rangers Mijovic scored a game-high 21 points – five more than the second ranked player and took four rebounds in Perth’s 83-66 victory. Carley scored 13 points in the first half and shot the ball proficiently throughout the game, making seven of her 11 field goal attempts and all six free-throws in 22 minutes and 10 seconds court-time.
Ernst’s scoring output fluctuated greatly from Round 7 to Perth’s first game of Round 13, scoring more than nine points in three of her nine games during this period but was also restricted to five points or less in four games. Fellow front-court player Tomlinson injured her ankle during Perth’s first game of Round 13 against Sydney, tearing lateral ligaments in her left ankle. With Tomlinson out injured Ernst was promoted into the Lynx starting line-up and made the most of this opportunity, scoring at least 11 points in her next eight games including a stretch of four consecutive games where she scored at least 20 points in every game.
In Round 16 home game against the SEQ Stars on 6 February Ernst scored a game-high 34 points – 14 more than the second ranked player, took six rebounds and made a team-high two steals. Ernst made 12 of her 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 57.1%, including nine of 17 three-pointers. Ernst’s outstanding performance against the Stars earnt her selection in the WNBL’s Round 16 Team of the Week.
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 on 12 February, took six rebounds, made 10 of her 16 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 62.5% and was very effective beyond the arc, making seven of her 12 three-pointers.
Perth finished in second place on the ladder at the end of the 2015/16 regular season with 16 wins and Dandenong and SEQ finished in third and fourth place respectively, each with 15 wins and nine losses. Townsville finished on top of the ladder with 17 wins and seven losses to win their second successive minor premiership. It was the most even regular season since 2005/06 when the top three teams all finished with a record of 14 wins and seven losses. In nine seasons from 2006/07 to 2014/15 the most losses that a minor premier finished the season with was five, being Sydney in 2006/07 and Townsville in 2014/15.
Perth travelled to Townsville for the major semi-final and were in a commanding position at half-time, leading 53-38. Whilst it was closer in the second half Perth recorded a comfortable 19 point victory, 91 points to 72 to progress to the Grand Final. Perth won the rebound count 42-34, and were composed with their ball use to have only seven turnover’s to Townsville’s 13 which were major factors in Townsville only having 61 field goal attempts to Perth’s 78. Perth shot the ball superbly from behind the three-point line with three players, Ernst, Whitcomb and Lavey shooting a combined 13 of 27 from behind the arc. Ernst had a season high nine rebounds and scored 17 points, making five of her 10 three-pointers. In the eight games before the Grand Final series Sami Whitcomb and Ernst made 71 three-pointers between them to earn themselves the nickname ‘splash sisters’.
In preliminary final Townsville at home defeated the SEQ Stars 91-71. 2015/16 was the first season that the WNBL Grand Final was a best of three game series rather than a stand-alone game. Perth led both game 1 and game 2 of the Grand Final at three quarter-time, however Townsville’s experience of playing in the previous three WNBL grand finals came to the fore. Perth were overrun in the last quarter of both games, being defeated 57-73 in game 1 at Bendat Basketball Centre and 70-80 in Game 2 at Townsville Stadium.
From the time that Ernst was inserted into the Perth Lynx line-up in Perth’s second Round 13 game of the 2015/16 season she was one of the most effective three-point shooters in the league. In seven of her last 10 games of the season Carley made at least four three-pointers, in six of these games her accuracy from beyond the arc was at least 50% and on the other occasion it was still a very respectable 40%.
During the 2015/16 WNBL season Ernst played all 27 games for Perth Lynx, averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.4 blocked shots and 20.4 minutes per game. Ernst ranked third at Perth for points per game behind Whitcomb (19.3) and Laney (15.7), fifth for rebounds, second for blocked shots behind Tomlinson and sixth for minutes played. Ernst’s 2.3 three-pointers made per game ranked fifth in the WNBL, teammate Whitcomb led the league with 3.5 three-pointers made per game. Carley had a three-point accuracy of 43.4% – ranked fifth in the WNBL among players that made at least five three-pointers for the season. Whitcomb was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five and finished third in the league’s MVP award. Ernst won the Perth Lynx’s most improved award for the 2015/16 season.
During the 2016 winter season Ernst remained in Western Australia and played for Kalamunda Eastern Suns in the West Australian State Basketball League. Ernst played 15 games for Kalamunda and averaged 24.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Ernst shot the ball at 47.7% from the field.
In Perth’s opening game of the 2016/17 WNBL season against the Sydney Flames the Lynx starting line-up was comprised of Whitcomb and American import guard Monica Wright in the back-court along with Farnworth, Ernst and Burton in the front-court. Perth had a core rotation of eight players that averaged more than 15.0 minutes per game with the other three players in this category being Lavey, Ruth Hamblin and Tenaya Sooalo (nee Phillips).
Ernst started the 2016/17 season in brilliant fashion, scoring a game-high 30 points in a thrilling Round 1 road victory against the Sydney Uni Flames 93-90 on 7 October 2016. Ernst shot the ball exceptionally to make seven of her 10 three-pointers at 70% and 11 of her 18 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 61%, she also took an equal team-high nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
In Round 2 Ernst again played a pivotal role in the Perth Lynx recording a three point victory on the road 88-85, this time against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre. Ernst scored a game-high 27 points – eight more than the second ranked player for the game and took six rebounds. Ernst shot the ball superbly from long range to make five of her eight three pointers at 62.5%, the rest of the Lynx team combined made one of seven three-pointers. With the scores tied at 79 apiece Ernst made a three pointer with a minute and 42 seconds left to regain the lead for Perth who retained the lead for the rest of the game.
Carley Ernst making a three-pointer for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre with one minute and 42 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter of the Round 2 2016/17 game.
Wright played Perth’s first four games of the season in the first two rounds but due to a major knee injury didn’t play for the club again and returned to the USA. Brianna Butler joined the Perth Lynx.
In April 2016 Ernst had signed with Perth Lynx for a second WNBL season with the club in 2016/17, and decided to remain in Perth for the off-season which enabled to have greater access to Perth Lynx staff and facilities. In an interview with Basketball Victoria early in the 2016/17 season Mijovic commented “It’s really good to stay here. To get a lot of game time and still train with Andy and the strength and conditioning coach was what I needed. Tessa (Lavey) and Nat (Burton) when they were in town trained as well, but they were pretty busy with the Olympics. I’ve grown as a player and the one-on-one training was what I needed. I’m not just a three-point shooter; I’ve worked on my driving and my defence, which hasn’t always been the strongest.”14
The Perth Lynx coaching staff were confident that being able to work with Ernst one on one in the off-season would enable her development to be fast-tracked and they were proven correct. Perth coach Andy Stewart commented “Part of the idea was to have her here (in the offseason) even though she could have gone home and played in the BIG V or SEABL. We wanted to spend some time with her and now she is turning out to be one of the premier fours of the competition. She’s now turning into a relatively consistent defender and can post up and has a mid-range shot. The way she’s going about scoring, she’s scoring in multiple ways… it’s fun to watch.”15
Carly Ernst playing for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers on 22 January 2017 at the State Basketball Centre
In an 87-81 victory in overtime against the Melbourne Boomers in a Round 18 home game at Bendat Basketball Centre Ernst 17 scored points, took a game-high 13 rebounds, made four assists, had a game-high three blocked shots and played 37 minutes and 54 seconds court-time. Ernst’s superb all-round performance earnt her selected in the WNBL’s Round 18 Team of the Week.
Perth finished third at the end of the 2016/17 regular season with 15 wins and nine losses, the same record as the Jayco Rangers. The Rangers won the tie-breaker due to winning the season series between the two clubs 3-1 which earnt them home-court advantage for the semi final series between the two clubs. The Sydney Uni Flames won the minor premiership three games ahead of their nearest rivals, recording 18 wins and six losses. In the semi final series Dandenong defeated Perth two games to one with the home team winning each game.
During the 2016/17 season Ernst played all 27 games for Perth Lynx, averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and 31.2 minutes per game. Ernst ranked second at Perth for points and three-pointers made per game behind Sami Whitcomb, second for rebounds and blocked shots behind Ruth Hamblin, third for minutes behind guards Whitcomb and Lavey and fourth for assists. In 2016/17 playing for Perth Lynx Ernst set new career-highs for points per game, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, assists and minutes played.
Ernst polled 50 votes in the 2016/17 WNBL MVP award to finish equal ninth with Maddie Garrick, ranked second at Perth behind Whitcomb who finished second overall, led the league in scoring and was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five for the second year in a row. Ernst made 2.4 three-pointers per game, ranked third in the league behind teammate Whitcomb (3.9 three-pointers per game) and Belinda Snell (2.5). Ernst ranked fifth in the WNBL for blocked shots per game, ninth for rebounds and 13th for scoring. Highlighting how much her game improved during her two seasons at Perth Ernst won the Perth Lynx’s most improved player award in both her seasons at the club.
In 2014 Ernst received a scholarship in Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence (CoE) Women’s program and represented the BA CoE during the 2014 SEABL season. Brendan Joyce had the role as head coach of the Jayco Australian Opals and the CoE. Ernst was selected in an Australian Opals 22 player squad for a training camp in January 2014 with Joyce commenting ”What impresses me about Carley is her mobility with her size. She’s of an international size in respect to the four-three spot. She’s got tremendous quickness and, if you look at teams like the US, Spain and Czech Republic, the players in those positions are six foot four but very quick … She has the mobility to match them. Her skill package is quite good and she can shoot the ball very well but physically she has to get stronger. What we’ve identified is girls like Carley we think are on the cusp. We want to give them extra physical training and development so they can play against senior women. If she can get stronger and develop quickly, she’s in [2014 world championship] contention for sure because of her ability.”16
In January 2014 Ernst was invited to her first Australian Opals camp. During May 2014 Ernst was a member of a 12 player Australian Opals team for a USA tour playing scrimmages against four WNBA teams – Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx, Atlanta Dream and San Antonio Silver Stars.
Ernst was a member of the Australian Women’s basketball team at the 2015 World University Games. In Australia’s victory against Uganda in their opening game of the tournament Ernst scored 22 points. Australia won all three Group D games to finish first in their group. Australia were defeated in a quarter final by Japan 83-71 and finished fifth at the 2015 World University Games after defeating Hungary and Czech Republic in the games to determine the finishing order from fifth to eighth.
Ernst represented Australia at the 2017 FIBA 3×3 Women’s World Championship during June in France along with current Southside Flyers teammate Bec Cole, Amelia Todhunter and Nadeen Payne. In their first game Australia lost to Ukraine 21-12. Australia won two games in a row, defeating China 21-7 and Japan 18-8. In their final group C game Australia lost to Netherlands 14-16. With a record of two wins and two losses Australia narrowly missed out on qualifying for the quarter finals, finishing ninth.
Playing in the SEABL from 2013 to 2017
From 2013 to 2017 Ernst played three seasons in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL), representing Kilsyth Cobras in 2013, the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE) in 2014 and the Frankston Blues in 2017. Ernst played 17 games for Kilsyth in 2013 and averaged 19.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Ernst had a field goal accuracy of 48.2% and a free-throw accuracy of 82.9%.
For the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence Ernst played nine games in 2014 and averaged 16.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Ernst shot the ball proficiently from long range to make 24 of 51 three-pointers at an accuracy of 47.1%.
In two of her first four games of the 2017 SEABL season for the Frankston Blues Ernst scored at least 32 points. Against Nunawading on 8 April Ernst scored a season-high 36 points, took 11 rebounds and made four assists. Ernst made seven of 13 three-pointers at an accuracy of 53.8%. Ernst played 19 games for the Frankston Blues in 2017 and averaged 19.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
2017/18 and 2018/19 WNBL seasons playing for Dandenong Rangers
After spending four WNBL seasons away from Melbourne comprised of one season with Canberra one season with Adelaide and two seasons with Perth Ernst decided to return to Melbourne for the 2017/18 season and signed with the Jayco Rangers. After signing with the Dandenong Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season Carley commented to Dandenong Basketball “I’m really excited to be back, I’ve been away for a while now so it’s good to be back home with my family and playing in a Rangers green uniform with my junior club.”17
Early in the 2017/18 WNBL season the Jayco Rangers had a core rotation of eight players. Five of these players played in Ernst’s debut WNBL game including four of the Rangers five starters, guards Lavey and Steph Blicavs along with forwards Ernst and Sara Blicavs. Tayla Roberts started on the bench as a back-up centre for the Rangers in 2017/18. In Ernst’s debut WNBL game on 19 December 2009 Sara Blicavs, Lavey and Roberts were teammates with Ernst at the AIS and Steph Blicavs played for the Dandenong Rangers. The three players in the Rangers core rotation at the start of the 2017/18 season that didn’t play in Ernst’s debut game were American import Kayla Pedersen who was the starting centre and point guards Amelia Todhunter and Spanish import Laia Palau. Larissa Anderson was in her third season as the Rangers Head Coach, having commenced the role in the 2015/16 season.
After Ernst signed with the Rangers for the 2017/18 season Head Coach Anderson commented on Ernst “She has become a prominent player in the WNBL at such a young age and yet, has so much more potential. With her athleticism and versatility, Carley will be a fantastic addition to our team. I am really looking forward to working with her. Carley will provide the Jayco Rangers with length and shooting that is hard to match at her position.”18
In a Dandenong Rangers home game against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on 21 October 2017 Ernst scored a game-high 28 points, took eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Ernst made a game-high four three-pointers and shot the ball at 55% from the field, making 10 of 19 field goal attempts in the Rangers 86-69 victory. Ernst was one of two Jayco Rangers named in the WNBL Team of the Week for Round 3 along with fellow forward Sara Blicavs.
On 27 October 2017 Ernst played her 150th WNBL game at 23 years of age in the Dandenong Rangers road game against the Perth Lynx. A couple of weeks later Sara Blicavs suffered a season ending knee injury in a home game against the Adelaide Lightning on 10 November. After Blicavs’ injury first-year player Kiera Rowe was moved into the Rangers core rotation.
Against Townsville Fire in a home at Dandenong Stadium on 29 November Ernst scored a team-high 18 points, took a game-high 16 rebounds, made two assists and blocked one shot in a 78-59 victory. Ernst made seven of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 47% and made an equal game-high four three-pointers along with teammate Lavey and Townsville guard/forward Mia Murray (nee Newley). Ernst was named in the WNBL’s Round 9 Team of the Week, her second TOTW selection for the 2017/18 season.
The Dandenong Rangers finished seventh on the ladder in 2017/18 with a record of seven wins and 14 losses. Ernst played all 21 games for the Jayco Rangers and averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 27.3 minutes per game. Among players who played at least five games for the season Ernst ranked equal fifth in the WNBL for blocked shots per game, 14th for rebounds and 16th in scoring. Ernst made 1.7 three-pointers per game – ranked equal seventh in the league.
For the 2018/19 WNBL season Ernst was one of eight members of the Rangers 2017/18 roster that returned to the club from the 2017/18 season along with Sara Blicavs, Lavey, Todhunter, Pedersen, Roberts, Rowe and Rebecca Pizzey. New additions to the Rangers line-up for 2018/19 were shooting guard and current Southside Flyers teammate Bec Cole, two-time Opals Olympian guard/forward Rachel Jarry and American guard/forward Betnijah Laney. Due to a wrist injury and a knee injury Ernst played managed minutes early in the season.
Dandenong’s starting line-up at the start of the 2018/19 season was comprised of Lavey and Cole in the back-court along with Jarry and American imports Laney and Pedersen in the front-court. Other members of the Rangers core rotation that played at least 18 games for the season and averaged more than 9.0 minutes per game were Ernst, Todhunter, Rowe and Roberts.
In a home game against Adelaide Lightning on 30 November Laney was out injured and Ernst thrived in a starting role for the Rangers. Ernst scored a game-high 26 points, took a team-high nine rebounds and made an equal game-high two steals in the 80-86 loss at Dandenong Stadium. Ernst made 10 of 19 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53% and made a game-high three three-pointers from eight attempts. Ernst was selected in the WNBL’s Round 8 Team of the Week.
In the post-game press conference after Dandenong’s Round 8 home game against Adelaide Rangers Head Coach Anderson commented “Couldn’t be more proud of this one (points to Ernst beside her) lifting like she did, we have had her so underdone all season. She came in with a fractured wrist and her knee, we haven’t been able to play her properly over 15 minutes. For her to get out there, she has really turned the corner in the last two weeks and had a couple of things done this week which kind of got her back on track and we were given the all clear to play her a bit more and couldn’t be more proud of her to get out there and do what she did tonight. Carley came out really aggressive and she has been aggressive all week at training, she’s finally able to move properly, her knee is not giving her as much grief over the last few days and that’s the effect out there.”
At the press conference Ernst commented “This was the first week that I really felt good with myself and comfortable and it showed out there on the court. I think my aggressive mindset from the start is something I will take away and also defensively not having lapses out there and just being ready all the time.”
Sara Blicavs returned to the Rangers line-up in a Round 10 home game at Dandenong Stadium and played managed minutes returning from a knee injury.
Against the Sydney Flames in a road game on 6 January Ernst scored 19 points, took seven rebounds, made two assists and blocked one shot in the Rangers 86-60 victory. Ernst shot at 50% from the field, made a team-high three three-pointers from six attempts and made both free-throws.
The Rangers finished fifth on the ladder in 2018/19 with nine wins and 12 losses. During 2018/19 Ernst played all 21 games for the Rangers and averaged 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocked shots and 18.9 minutes per game. Carley made 1.1 three-pointers per game – ranked equal second at the Rangers with Lavey, just behind Cole (1.2 made three-pointers per game). Cole finished runner up in the league’s MVP Award and was selected in the 2018/19 WNBL All-Star Five. Ernst led Dandenong in blocked shots per game, ranked fourth for points, fifth for rebounds and seventh for minutes played.
Playing for Romanian club APS Sepsi SIC in 2018
At the conclusion of the 2017/18 WNBL season Ernst had her first season playing in Europe, joining Romanian club APS Sepsi SIC mid-season for the 2017/18 Liga Nationala season. Sepsi SIC dominated the regular season to finish on top of the ladder with 19 wins and one loss, six wins ahead of second placed CSM Satu Maru.
Sepsi SIC won their quarter final and semi final series two games to nil to progress to the final which was a best of five game series. In the semi final Sepsi SIC won each of their games by 28 points. Sepsi SIC won the first two games of the final at home against second seed CSM Satu Maru by at least 20 points. On the road Sepsi SIC were defeated in game 3 by CSM Satu Maru 60-68. In game 4 on the road Sepsi SIC defeated CSM Satu Maru 85-76 to win the Romanian Championship.
Ernst played 12 games for APS Sepsi SIC in 2018 and averaged 14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 blocked shots and 23.8 minutes per game. Among players that played at least five games Ernst led APS Sepsi SIC for blocked shots and rebounds, ranked second for points, third for minutes played and fourth for assists.
During a Fox Sports Aus Feature – Carley Mijovic video published on 26 December 2018 Ernst commented on her time playing in Romania in 2018, saying “After the (WNBL) season I said to my agent I want to look to go overseas and found the Romanian one and went there. It was interesting, it was a really, really tough three months, learnt lots of things, met lots of amazing people and we won the championship there. Some of the challenges, it was a smaller town that we were in, it was beautiful but there wasn’t much to do there and it was freezing, for the first part it was snowing. I played against a Belarus girl Marina Kress who was an Olympian and she was big body and I had to train against that two or three times a day which is tough for me because I am such a skinny frame. Training against her and a few of the other American girls who are quite tough also, I definitely learnt that I need to be a bit stronger in my game. When the siren went and we won it was kind of like, ohh I feel a bit relaxed now and know that three months of tough, hard work and being away from my family all made it worth it.”
2019/20 and 2020 WNBL seasons with Bendigo Spirit
Bendigo Spirit announced on 2 May 2019 that Ernst had signed a two-year deal with the club. Ernst told WNBL Media “I have heard such great things about Bendigo Spirit regarding the, coaches, administrators and, of course, the fans. Everyone tells me it’s like a big family up there and I can’t wait to join the family.”19
During a Fox Sports Aus Feature – Carley Mijovic video published on 26 December 2018 Ernst spoke about her upcoming wedding to Josh, saying “Yes, I got engaged, getting married in March. We met back in Canberra, went to school together and then seen each other on a night out and the rest is history.” On 8 March 2019 Carley married Josh Ernst.
Tracey York was appointed Bendigo Spirit’s Head Coach for the 2019/20 season. York was in her second season as a WNBL Head Coach, having coached Adelaide Lightning in 2015/16. In Bendigo’s opening game of the 2019/20 season at Red Energy Arena on 12 October 2019 against Melbourne Boomers the Spirit’s starting line-up was Tessa Lavey, Kelly Wilson, American import Marte Grays, Ernst and Gabe Richards. Nine Bendigo players averaged more than 17.0 minutes per game in 2019/20 with the five season opening starters being joined in this category by Abbey Wehrung, Shyla Heal, Demi Skinner and American import Becca Tobin who was unavailable for the Round 1 game against Melbourne due to concussion.
Lavey and Wilson were appointed as Bendigo Spirit Co-Captains and Ernst was named Bendigo’s Vice-Captain. Bendigo Head Coach York told WNBL Media “With Kelly Wilson and Tessa Lavey as our Co-Captains comes a wealth of experience locally, nationally and internationally. They will be assisted in the Vice-Captain role by Carley Ernst who is new to Bendigo and works hard both on the floor, in the community and supporting the coaches. We look forward to this group leading our team onto our home court throughout the season.”20
In a Bendigo Spirit Round 2home game at Red Energy Arena on 20 October 2019 Ernst delivered a dominant all-round performance with 29 points, 16 rebounds and three steals to register game-highs in all three categories in a 91-79 victory against Perth Lynx. Ernst also had four assists, made 10 of 19 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 52.6%, made a game-high four three-pointers from nine attempts at an accuracy of 44.4% and made five of six free-throws at 83.3%. Carley’s 16 rebounds were comprised of six offensive rebounds and 10 defensive rebounds. Ernst was the only Bendigo player that took at least six rebounds in total which highlights how dominant she was on the boards at both ends of the court. Ernst was selected in the WNBL’s Round 2 Team of the Week.
On 11 December American import centre Becca Tobin was released from her contract with Bendigo Spirit after having played seven games for the season. In Bendigo’s first two games after Tobin’s departure Ernst scored more than 19 points and took at least seven rebounds. In the second of these games Ernst scored 20 points, took seven rebounds and made five assists to set team-highs in all three categories in an 81-88 loss to Sydney Flames at home on 19 December.
With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of a home game at Red Energy Arena on 28 December Bendigo trailed Townsville 72-76. In the remainder of the game Ernst was the only player to make a field goal and was the catalyst for Bendigo going on a 7-2 run and defeating Townsville 79-78. Ernst made a three-pointer with one minute and 35 seconds left to reduce the margin to one point. Two free throws made by Darcee Garbin extended Townsville’s lead to three points with one minute and 13 seconds left. In the final minute Ernst was the only player to score, making a floating jump shot with 57 seconds left and then a jump shot with 22 seconds left from a Kelly Wilson assist to give Bendigo a one point lead in what ended up being the final score of the game. Ernst finished the game with 24 points, six rebounds and two assists in the thrilling one point victory. Ernst shot the ball proficiently to make 10 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58.8% and made a game-high four three-pointers from six attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%.
Ernst finished the 2019/20 regular season in style with a double double and was only three assists shy of a triple double in Bendigo’s 89-69 road victory against Townsville Fire on 1 February at Townsville Stadium. Ernst scored a game-high 26 points, took a team-high 10 rebounds, had an equal game-high seven assists along with teammate Lavey and made an equal game-high two steals. Ernst made 10 of 20 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50% and was even more effective from long range to make six of 11 three-pointers at 54.5%.
At the end of the 2019/20 regular season Bendigo finished seventh on the ladder with five wins and 16 losses. In 2019/20 Ernst played all 21 games for Bendigo and averaged 12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.5 blocked shots and 25.4 minutes per game. Ernst made 1.8 three-pointers per game, ranked second at Bendigo behind Wehrung (1.9 three-pointers per game) and equal ninth in the league among players that played at least five games. Ernst ranked 15th in the WNBL for rebounds. Ernst ranked second for Bendigo in scoring just behind Heal (12.1 points per game), ranked second for rebounds and blocked shots behind Tobin and ranked fourth for minutes played. Ernst won Bendigo’s 2019/20 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, the first WNBL club MVP of her career.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to previous 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.
Of the nine players that averaged more than 6.0 points and 17.0 minutes per game during the 2019/20 season for Bendigo Ernst was one of only three to return in 2020 along with Lavey and Skinner. In 2020 Ernst and Amelia Todhunter were Co Vice-Captains of Bendigo Spirit and Lavey was appointed as Captain. For Bendigo’s opening game of the 2020 WNBL season their starting line-up was Lavey, Amelia Todhunter, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Ernst. Ten Bendigo Spirit players averaged at least 9.0 minutes per game in 2020 with the five starters being joined in this category by Skinner, Jennie Rintala, Chevannah Paalvast, Froling and Cassidy McLean.
In September 2020 Bendigo Head Coach York commented to central.rookieme.com on Ernst, saying “With Carley, she is such a talent! With her height as well and her ability to shoot the three, there are many strengths to her game. We said ‘you need to get inside!’, because she can be an inside and an outside player, and when our bigs had injuries last season she had to start down low. The more she can get inside and have a look at what is there and then get outside if she needs to, that is where you see the all-around game from a girl with Carley’s abilities.”21
Against Perth Lynx at McDonalds Mackay Multi Sports Stadium Ernst registered a double double comprised of a game-high 28 points and a team-high 10 rebounds against Perth Lynx on 18 November. Ernst also made an equal game-high three steals along with Lavey, shot at 46.2% from the field and made a game-high four three-pointers from eight attempts at 50%.
On 25 November against Adelaide Lightning Ernst registered a double double comprised of 22 points and 10 rebounds to be Bendigo’s second highest scorer behind Lavey with 33 points in an 83-89 loss at Townsville Stadium.
Ernst started the game at Cairns Pop-Up Arena against Adelaide Lightning on 9 December 2020 in phenomenal fashion, scoring 17 points and taking seven rebounds in the first quarter to set up a 23-12 Bendigo lead at quarter time. In the opening term Ernst made three three-pointers, two-free-throws, a fade away, a jump shot and a lay up. Ernst finished the game with a double double comprised of 32 points and 15 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories. Lavey ranked second in the game with 17 points however no other Spirit player scored more than four points and Adelaide with five players in double figures overran Bendigo to win 69-59. Ernst shot at 44.8% from the field and made a game-high four three-pointers from nine attempts at an accuracy of 44.4%.
After the loss to Adelaide Ernst told WNBL Media “The shots were dropping for me tonight but still we’ve lost again and it feels crap to lose once again. We got off to a really good start and I’m proud of the girls for how they played, but the score doesn’t really show how hard we fought. Credit to us and we haven’t won yet, but we fight right to the end no matter the score. We don’t stop and our bench is absolutely amazing with nobody getting down. We played a really good game tonight.”22
During the 2020 hub season with Bendigo Spirit Ernst averaged 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 blocked shots and 30.0 minutes per game. Ernst set new career-highs for scoring and rebounds per game. Ernst ranked 11th in the WNBL for scoring and second at Bendigo, just behind Lavey (15.2 points per game). Carley led the Spirit in rebounds and blocked shots and ranked second for minutes played behind Lavey. Ernst ranked eighth in the league for rebounds and equal eighth for blocked shots. Ernst’s 2.1 three-pointers per game ranked equal third in the WNBL and led Bendigo ahead of Lavey (1.3 three-pointers made per game).
Bendigo Spirit were undermanned during the 2020 season and finished last without a win in the 13 game season. Bendigo had a heavy reliance on Lavey and Ernst, with the duo each averaging more than 14.5 points and 29.9 minutes per game to be joint winners of Bendigo’s 2020 MVP Award. No other Spirit player averaged more than 7.0 points and 22.0 minutes per game.
Ernst and Lavey have been teammates for most of their WNBL careers, having spent three seasons together at the AIS from 2009/10 to 2011/12 and then six consecutive seasons as teammates from 2015/16 to 2020 at three different clubs. The second stint as teammates was comprised of two seasons with Perth Lynx, two seasons with Dandenong Rangers and two seasons with Bendigo Spirit.
In the “Get to know your Flyers Friday” Carley video published by the Southside Flyers on 13 January 2023 Ernst’s response to the question “Athlete you admire the most?” was “I am going to go with my best friend Tessa Lavey, she is a dual athlete and does basketball and she is doing AFL at the moment as well. I think what she is doing is pretty amazing.”
Motherhood and being a member of the Melbourne Boomers 2021/22 WNBL Championship team
On 8 September 2021 Ernst had a son Kylan. Ernst expected to miss the 2021/22 WNBL season and make her basketball return with the Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season.
In mid-January 2022 the Deakin Melbourne Boomers announced that Ernst had signed with the club for the remainder of the 2021/22 WNBL season. Ernst told WNBL Media “I am really excited to be joining the Melbourne Boomers for the remaining part of the WNBL season. When the opportunity presented & the club offered their support of my responsibilities as a first time Mum with baby Kylan, I jumped at the chance to play with such a talented team and experienced coaching staff. I’ve been coming up against talented players from this team in previous WNBL seasons, I’m really focused on coming in and playing a role and hopefully helping the Boomers win a championship in 2022.”23
In recent seasons there has been a significant increase in the number of mothers playing in the WNBL which is partly due to mothers receiving more support from the WNBL and WNBL clubs. On 31 October 2018 The Australian Basketballers’ Association (ABA) [from May 2019 known as The Australian Basketball Players’ Association] and the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) announced the establishment of the WNBL’s first Parental and Pregnancy Care Policy. An excerpt from the statement is below:
“The Policy follows the introduction of the Minimum Player Conditions Agreement, reached between the ABA, the Chemist Warehouse Women’s National Basketball League and Basketball Australia in November 2017, and ensures players receive industry-standard conditions.
As a result of the Policy’s introduction, female basketballers in the national league will have access to the full provision of a qualified carer or player elected support personnel for all away trips.
The Policy also provides additional care and financial support for mothers with children up to four years old for away trips, with additional support costs provided in addition to a players’ other salary and entitlements.”24
After the WNBL’s first Parental and Pregnancy Care Policy was introduced for the 2018/19 WNBL season Rachel Jarry who was the Players’ Association WNBL President at the time commented “As elite athletes, we want to be able to perform at our best at all times, but also feel supported on and off the court. We can now make choices for our families, without the uncertainty over our playing contracts and know that the player’s association and league provide players with their full support.”25
During Shooting The Breeze Ep85: Sidelined with Adam McKay, Carley Ernst and Tony Hallam published on 16 September 2022Ernst spoke about her WNBL return with the Melbourne Boomers, saying “I came back 16 weeks after having my beautiful boy Kylan, and I think you talk on the mental side of it. It was tough, this is so hard to talk about but I personally was struggling mentally after having the baby and I don’t think that is talked about enough, feel really isolated even though I had my family around me every day helping me. It was just completely different, I thought I was just going to have the whole having a baby down but it was tough. I think coming back I got back into that mental mindset of just wanting to work out every day and compete and that was just me and what I loved doing. I think going back into that and being around the group of girls and just the environment was so good for me, my mental health but also my mental toughness like you are talking about. I think I just can’t credit Boomers enough and all the girls in the group.”
The Melbourne Boomers starting line-up when at full-strength in the 2021/22 WNBL season was Australian Opals trio Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor and Tess Madgen along with American imports Lindsay Allen and Tiffany Mitchell. Each of Melbourne’s five starters averaged more than 28.0 minutes per game. Ernst was one of six players that played at least 12 games for Melbourne in 2021/22 and averaged more than 6.0 minutes per game along with Penina Davidson, Izzy Wright (nee Chilcott), Lily Scanlon, Rachel Brewster and Lou Brown. In 2022/23 Guy Molloy was in his ninth and final season as Head Coach of the Melbourne Boomers.
On Ernst’s preparation for the 2021/22 WNBL season compared to that of her Boomers teammates, she told Basket Case in Series 9, Episode 7“My pre-season, the girls started and I was giving birth to my little one, completely different pre-seasons you know, but when I came In I definitely wasn’t up to the fitness of the other girls but I definitely picked it up really quick and slid right in. I had played with most of the girls or played against them so you know each other’s game so coming in was really easy and the girls were so supportive, yeah it was really good.”
On 17 January Ernst made her WNBL return playing for the Melbourne Boomers only four months after having son Kylan. Melbourne had started the season well to have five wins and two losses from seven games before Ernst played her first game of the season. In a Boomers 80-77 victory against Perth Lynx at Selkirk Stadium in Ballarat Ernst scored four points and took one rebound in eight minutes and 40 seconds court-time. Ernst continued to play off the Boomers bench for the remainder of the season.
During Sidelined: Episode 2 Tiffany Mitchell said “I don’t even know what type of mum I would be but if I had to envision, Carley, Carley is it.” Tess Madgen commented on Ernst “She’s a superhero, I mean she is so fit, she’s just crazy the way four months after having Kylan she is already out here playing against us, I actually can’t imagine it.” Lindsay Allen commented to Sidelined on Ernst, saying “I am sure it hasn’t been easy for her being a first time mother and just having to handle that but I think we just respect her so much and she has handled it with so much class and so much poise that it kind of inspires you to be like hey, maybe this is something I could do or this is something that is actually possible. Its also helping when your baby is as not fussy as Kylan as well.”
For Melbourne’s home game against Perth Lynx on 6 February at Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium in Traralgon the Boomers were without three starters. George and Madgen were on Australian Opals duties at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia. At the Australian Opals training camp before the tournament Magbegor injured her ankle which forced her to miss the WCQT. Without Madgen, George and Magbegor Ernst played an increased role against Perth, made four of eight field goal attempts at 50%, two of four three-pointers, scored 10 points, took seven rebounds, made two assists and blocked one shot in the 81-86 overtime loss.
In a video by the Deakin Melbourne Boomers published on 8 February 2022 titled Carley Ernst – Motherhood and Basketball Ernst commented “When I had Kylan I didn’t have this WNBL season in mind. I had my contract with Waverley, this off-season coming. My body felt really good and when I got contacted by Melbourne that they were interested for me to play it was sort of like ‘Why not.’ I feel good, they really wanted me to play so I thought I would give it a go and it is all going really well so far and I am loving it.”
“I was a little bit nervous at the start, bringing him in because I wasn’t sure how he was going to be on the sidelines, if he was just going to cry the whole time, I didn’t want to be a distraction coming in the middle of the season to the girls. But I think coming in now it is the best thing I have ever done, he is so loved on the sidelines and so well looked after and just as happy as anything. The girls have really welcomed us into the team and we are so lucky and so grateful to have this opportunity.”
Reflecting on the changes since becoming a mother Ernst whilst holding Kylan commented in Carley Ernst – Motherhood and Basketball “When I used to play I could go home I could relax, I had my own time to recover, sleep all night, feel fresh for the next day. Now leaving the house in the morning its not just packing my own bag. It is what does Kylan need? His bottles ready, got all his stuff packed for the day and when you get home you want to switch off or have a nap but I have got this little guy to look after which I absolutely love. He definitely takes your mind off things if you have had a bad game or a bad training, he just brings you back down to earth and go it is not all about basketball, I have got this little thing here and he makes me happy.”
In terms of having a family Ernst commented “There is never going to be a right time and I think if you make sure you have got a good support system in place, whether that is family, the team you are going to. All the policies that are in place now that help us as mums to return to sport which I think is amazing and we are pretty lucky that, it makes me emotional a little bit that we get to come to training and see him on the sideline. We are so lucky and privileged that we get to do what we love and have them on the sidelines with you so it is pretty special. I would want him to see just how strong I am and I was. I think coming back four months after a baby is pretty crazy. Just to see that I have come back to do what I love and he was able to be a part of it all which I think is just so special.”
Against Townsville Fire on 25 February at the State Basketball Centre Ernst scored 22 points – ranked second for the game behind Boomers teammate Madgen with 23 points, took two rebounds, made two assists and blocked one shot from 20 minutes and six seconds court-time. Ernst shot the ball exceptionally to make eight of nine field goal attempts including six of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 85.7% in Melbourne’s 88-60 victory.
Carly Ernst shooting a three-pointer for Melbourne Boomers against Sydney Flames on 20 February 2022 at the State Basketball Centre
In early April 2022 Ernst commented to The Pick and Roll on her performance for the Boomers at SBC against Townsville, saying “Those are really fun games, when you’re just throwing it up and it’s going on. A lot of credit goes to Guy (Molloy), he gives us girls the confidence and he gives me a green light. He says: ‘If you’ve got a shot and you’re open, shoot it’. That night I had more opportunities, more open shots, it was good; they were dropping. So yeah, it was a pretty fun game to play.”26
The Boomers had 12 wins and five losses during the 2021/22 regular season to win the minor premiership. Six of the Boomers victories were by more than 10 points and four of the five losses were by five points or less.
In a semi final series Melbourne played Adelaide Lightning who finished fourth at the end of the regular season. At half-time of game 1 at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville the Boomers trailed Adelaide 32-47. The Boomers completely outplayed Adelaide in the second half to register 63 points whilst restricting Adelaide to just 17 points to record a 95-64 victory. In game 2 at The Lights Community and Sports Centre Melbourne defeated Adelaide 61-49 to progress to the WNBL Grand Final for the first time since the 2017/18 season. In the last six quarters of the semi-final series the Boomers played phenomenal defense to restrict Adelaide to just 66 points which equates to a miserly 11 points per quarter. In game 2 against Adelaide Ernst scored nine points shooting at 50% from the field, took five rebounds, blocked one shot and made one steal.
Melbourne hosted game 1 of the Grand Final series at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville against Perth Lynx who finished second at the end of the regular season with 11 wins and five losses. During the middle stages of the first quarter Perth went on a 15-2 run to gain the ascendency and Melbourne were defeated 71-98.
On the road at Bendat Basketball Centre in game 2 Melbourne trailed Perth 25-28 at quarter-time. A buzzer-beating three from Allen on half-time gave Melbourne a 42-39 lead at the main break. With one minute and 50 seconds remaining in the fourth term Melbourne led Perth 71-70. Just over a minute later Allen drove into the key, drew defenders and passed to George who made a three pointer to extend the Boomers lead to 74-70 with 43 seconds to play. Marina Mabrey made a three-pointer for Perth to reduce the margin to one point with 9.6 seconds left. George made two foul shots two seconds later to get the margin back to three points. On an attempted three-pointer to tie the scores Mabrey was fouled with 0.2 seconds left. Mabrey made the first two free-throws with swishes, however the third free-throw was short, hitting the front of the rim, and the Boomers prevailed, winning 76-75 to send the series to a third game. The lead changed 13 times during a highly entertaining game two.
In the middle two quarters of game 3 of the Grand Final at home Melbourne outscored Perth Lynx 48-26 and went on to defeat the Lynx 84-66 to win the Deakin Melbourne Boomers second WNBL Championship in club history, having previously won the title in 2010/11. Point guard Allen won the Rachel Sporn medal as the 2021/22 Grand Final Most Valuable Player (MVP). The Boomers became the first team to overcome a game one loss and rebound to win a WNBL Grand Final series. Ernst averaged 4.0 points and 12 minutes per game in the Grand Final series.
As a member of the Melbourne Boomers 2021/22 WNBL Championship team Ernst played 15 games for the Boomers and averaged 5.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 14.8 minutes court-time per game. Ernst ranked third at the Boomers for blocked shots per game and sixth for points and minutes per game. Ernst made 1.0 three-pointers per game, ranked fifth at Melbourne.
Reflecting on the 2021/22 WNBL season with the Melbourne Boomers Ernst told Basket Case Podcast in 9:7 Carley Ernst Guests and Its a Naughty and Nice GOTW “That was so exciting, like I didn’t even expect to play that season. Coming back and doing it and winning, pretty special and something I will definitely remember forever.”
A four-part documentary series Sidelined: Women in Basketball directed by Adam McKay covering the Deakin Melbourne Boomers 2021/22 WNBL Season and the fight for equality in women’s basketball premiered on SBS TV, Fox Sports and Kayo in September 2022.
During Shooting The Breeze Ep85: Sidelined with Adam McKay, Carley Ernst and Tony Hallam published on 16 September 2022 STB co-hostsPaul Camillos and Jacinta Govind had an in depth discussion with McKay, Ernst and Melbourne Boomers Chair Hallam regarding Sidelined. During Shooting the Breeze Ep 85 Ernst commented on Sidelined “With it all coming out now and everyone talking about it and Adam and Tony talk about how crazy it was coming back at 16 weeks. At the time I was just like, oh yep, I’ll do it, I feel good but now it is like OK, it was something doing that. I think the footage, and I haven’t seen it all yet, I am very excited. The behind the scenes of it all will just show other mothers, other athletes that it can be done and I think that is what is so special about it.”
“Now its 2022 all the clubs are getting around it. Women can have a baby and come back to sport or any job they want to do, why can’t they. You are going to see in all the footage, all the support and the actual help I had behind me, like I couldn’t have done it on my own. I was training, someone was looking after Kylan so I think that’s what is going to highlight in it and everyone is going to see behind the scenes of just how special the Boomers were in helping us and helping me get through that first six, seven months of motherhood, because it is really hard. He is one tomorrow, every day is different, it is never going to be the same, every day is different and that is what I have really learnt as well, you just take each day as it comes and it is really so special. To look back now, to have this footage and I’ll be able to show him, how special is that, like coming in I would never of thought something like that would be happening. So I’ll be bale to sit when he is a bit older and watch it, honestly it is just one of the most special things and I am just so excited.”
A link to the Sidelined website which contains more information on the four-part documentary is below:
Playing for Waverley Falcons in 2015, 2019 and 2022
During the 2015 winter season Ernst played for the Waverley Falcons in Big V. Ernst started the season brilliantly and was named the Big V Player of the Month for April. Against McKinnon Ernst scored 38 points, took 11 rebounds and made six of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%. Ernst averaged 24.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to earn selection in the Big V All-Star Five.
In the inaugural NBL1 season in 2019 Ernst played nine games for the Waverley Falcons. Against the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in a home game on 12 May 2019 Ernst scored 27 points. Playing for Waverley Falcons in the 2019 NBL1 season Ernst averaged 18.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots per game. Ernst was very effective from long range, making 29 of 65 three-pointers at an accuracy of 44.6%.
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 Braves 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.
2022/23 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers
On 7 September 2022 the Southside Flyers announced that Carley Ernst had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Ernst told WNBL Media “I’m excited for Kylan and me to be joining the Flyers family. I have played with and know most of the girls well and I am really looking forward to getting started and having a good season with the Flyers. Speaking with Cheryl (Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers) and some of the players I know it will be an exciting and hopefully successful season for the team. It is also about the people, and it really feels like the Flyers family which is important to me and our young family.”27
Southside Head Coach Cheryl Chambers told wnbl.basketball “Carley can make an impact across all areas of the game and adds real depth to our team. She also brings valuable experience, including championship winning experience, both here and in Europe, adding to our leadership on and off the court.”28
In Southside’s opening game of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season the Flyers starting line-up was Sara Blicavs, American import Kayla Thornton and Lauren Jackson in the frontcourt along with Maddy Rocci and Bec Cole in the backcourt. Other members of the Flyers nine player core rotation at the start of the season were Abby Bishop, Ernst, Southside captain Aimie Rocci and 18 year-old forward Nyadiew Puoch. Early in the 2022/23 season point guard Monique Conti joined the Flyers.
On 5 November a Jayco Southside Flyers player profiles and preview of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season article was published on Milestones and Misses. Detailed profiles of all 10 members on the Southside Flyers 2022/23 main roster at the start of the season and Head Coach Cheryl Chambers are provided in this article.
In Southside’s opening game of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Ernst scored 12 points and took two rebounds in 10 minutes and 22 seconds in a 99-91 home victory at the State Basketball Centre against Adelaide Lightning. Ernst shot the ball proficiently to make an equal game-high four three-pointers along with teammate Maddi Rocci, from five attempts at an accuracy of 80%.
On her role at the Southside Flyers Ernst told the Basket Case Podcast in Series 9, Episode 7 published on 20 December 2022 “When you have got an LJ in front of you and a Bish in front of you I think I just come out when I can and when they need me and bring my game and do what I do and shoot my shot when I can. I am loving my role and it is exciting to have the bigs we do and to train with them everyday, it is really fun.”
Basket Case co-host Carol Wical commented “It is a great thing to have a wider spread of age in the team, (it) is really great for everybody.” Ernst commented “Yeah, it really is, it brings experience and knowledge and I think no matter which team it is it helps with the development of the young ones and everyone in general to just learn the game through their eyes. It is really special to have as you called veterans back in the league and helping around everyone, it is good. Having LJ on our team, its never gonna happen again, everyone is really learning from her and she is really helping us as well as a team in different situations, scenarios because she has been in a million of them , we are like sponges and just soaking it all in and learning from her.”
Against Bendigo Spirit on the road at Red Energy Arena on 23 December Ernst scored 13 points, took four rebounds, made one assist and blocked one shot in Southside’s 96-67 victory. Ernst shot the ball impeccably to make all five shot attempts comprised of four three-pointers and one free-throw from just nine minutes and 19 seconds court-time. Ernst was the third highest scorer for the game behind Southside frontcourt starters Jackson (20 points) and Blicavs (14).
Carly Ernst playing for Southside Flyers against Bendigo Spirit on 6 January 2023 at the State Basketball Centre
In Southside’s Round 11 road game against the University of Canberra Capitals at the National Convention Centre Ernst played the 250th WNBL game of her career and in her first start of the season scored four points at 50% from the field, took four rebounds made two assists and one steal in a 97-81 victory.
During the 2020 WNBL hub season held in North Queensland there were four mothers playing in the league – Leilani Mitchell and Steph Blicavs with the Southside Flyers, Mia Murray for Townsville Fire and Ashleigh Karaitianana with the Melbourne Boomers. The number of mothers playing in the WNBL has increased rapidly and just two seasons later 10 mothers are playing in the current 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season.
The 10 mothers on a 2022/23 WNBL roster are:
Abby Bishop Southside Flyers
Alex Bunton University of Canberra Capitals
Carly Ernst Southside Flyers
Jasmin Fejo Adelaide Lightning
Cayla George Melbourne Boomers
Tianna Hawkins Townsville
Lauren Jackson Southside Flyers
Mia Murray Melbourne Boomers
Sami Whitcomb Perth Lynx
Kelly Wilson Bendigo Spirit
Mothers playing in the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season are thriving performing their specific role for their WNBL club. Among players that have made at least five three-pointers for the season Ernst leads the WNBL with an exceptional accuracy of 54.3%, having made 19 of 35 attempts from behind the arc. Ernst and fellow mother and Southside frontcourt player Bishop and Cary Ernst are making an impact off the bench to be two of the nine players that average less than 22 minutes per game and more than 5.0 points per game.
Four mothers rank in the league’s top 20 for points per game, George (2nd), Whitcomb (4th), Hawkins (12th) and Jackson (17th). Murray ranks equal third in the WNBL for three-pointers made per game. Kelly Wilson leads the WNBL for assists per game and Bunton ranks 12th in rebounds. Murray ranks equal third in the league for three-pointers made per game.
The high standard at which mothers are performing the specific roles they have with their WNBL club reinforces that women can successfully combine playing professional sport with being mothers and that they don’t need to retire when they start a family.
The Southside Flyers have had 12 wins and four losses to have a winning percentage of 75% and are first on the ladder ahead of cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers who have a record of 11 wins and four losses.
In 2022/23 Ernst has played all 16 games for the Southside Flyers and has averaged 5.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 11.7 minutes per game. Ernst ranks third at Southside with 1.2 three-pointers made per game, ranks sixth in rebounding, seventh in scoring and 10th for minutes played.
Some players that start on the bench can find it difficult to get into rhythm however this has not been an issue for Ernst. Despite spending less than a third of game-time on court over the first 12 rounds of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Ernst ranks 25th in the WBNBL for three-pointers made per game and equal 27th for blocked shots per game. Ernst’s 11.7 minutes per game is the lowest among the 53 payers that are averaging at least 5.0 points per game.
After Ernst made her WNBL debut at 15 years of age with the AIS on 19 December 2009 she faced considerable adversity early in her career. Due to a knee injury Ernst was unable to play a game in 2010/11. Making her basketball return in 2011/12 Ernst was a revelation with the AIS and won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award.
After graduating from the AIS Ernst had three and a half seasons as a core rotation player for several different clubs in the WNBL. Ernst was elevated into the Perth Lynx starting line-up during the 2015/16 WNBL season and thrived to rank fifth in the league for three-pointers made per game.
For most of the time from 2016/17 to 2020 Ernst was a starter for her WNBL club and in each of these five seasons Ernst ranked in the league’s top 23 for both blocked shots and three-pointers made per game. Playing for Perth Lynx in 2016/17 Ernst finished in the top 10 of the WNBL’s MVP award. Ernst won back-to-back club MVP Awards for Bendigo Spirit in 2019/20 and 2020 and in the latter season set new career-highs for points and rebounds per game. Ernst has made 343 three-pointers in her career, equating to 1,029 points from beyond the arc.
Four months after having son Kylan in September 2021 Ernst made her WNBL return in January 202 playing for the Melbourne Boomers. Ernst was effective off the bench and was a member of the Boomers 2021/22 WNBL Championship winning team. It was the second time that Ernst had joined a team mid-season and been a member of a championship winning team, having won the 2017/18 Romanian title with APS Sepsi SIC.
As an impact player off the bench for the Southside Flyers in 2022/23 Ernst leads the league with a three-point accuracy of 54.3% and is playing the least game-time among players averaging more than 5.0 points per game.
After graduating from the AIS Ernst has been extremely durable and from 3 March 2013 until the end of the 2020 hub season played 177 consecutive WNBL games. This incredible durability is a key factor in Ernst reaching 250 WNBL games at just 28 years of age despite missing the entire 2010/11 season with the AIS due to a knee injury and joining the Melbourne Boomers part way through the 2021/22 season after having son Kylan. Congratulations Carley Ernst on reaching 250 WNBL games and becoming the 77th person to receive WNBL Life Membership.
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