Sara Blicavs’ journey to reach 250 WNBL games, score 3,000 points in the WNBL and win a World Cup bronze medal with the Opals

In the Southside Flyers last game of 2022 on 28 December at the State Basketball Centre forward Sara Blicavs achievement of reaching 250 WNBL games and receiving WNBL Life Membership was celebrated. Blicavs achieved the significant milestone in the 14th consecutive season of her WNBL career, having debuted with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2009/10.

Blicavs was a co-host along with Megan Hustwaite of The WNBL Show – EP09 published on 28 December 2022. During the episode Hustwaite asked Blicavs “It is a big milestone for you this round, it is a home game for Southside Flyers playing the Caps. It is where your 250th WNBL game will be celebrated, congratulations, how did you get to 250?” Blicavs responded “I have no clue and now it is starting to show my age and hearing that I realise that I am 30 next year and I have been playing WNBL since I was 16, so that is astonishing to me. I guess it kinds of racks up. I had a year out with my ACL injury but other than that I have just been playing WNBL non-stop. Super-happy and I have heard that 250 is life-membership, Steph Blicavs is a life member.” 

Sara Blicavs playing for Southside Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 9 November 2022

At 16 years of age Sara Blicavs made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on 19 December 2009 and played a total of 45 games in three seasons with the AIS. In five completed WNBL seasons playing for Dandenong Rangers and Bendigo Spirit from 2012/13 to 2016/17 Blicavs played a total of 131 WNBL games to be one of the most durable players in the league. During this five season period 189 centimetre tall Blicavs was on an upward trajectory with her scoring average increasing by at least 1.5 points per game in all five seasons during this time, rising from 7.5 points per game in 2012/13 to 15.5 points per game in 2016/17.

In 2013/14 Blicavs was a member of the Bendigo Spirit team that won the WNBL Championship. Blicavs was a joint winner of the Jayco Rangers Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award along with her sister-in-law Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) in 2016/17 and had her second consecutive top 10 finish in the WNBL’s MVP Award.  

On 10 November 2017 Sara Blicavs injured her right knee playing in a WNBL game for the Jayco Rangers against the Adelaide Lightning at Dandenong Stadium. Blicavs suffered three injuries to her right knee, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), ripping the meniscus root of the bone and fracturing her kneecap. Blicavs required a knee reconstruction and missed 13 months of basketball due to the injury. On 16 December 2018 Blicavs made her WNBL return with the Jayco Rangers and played limited minutes in six WNBL games during 2018/19.

It took considerable time back playing for Blicavs to regain confidence in her body and as a basketball player. Blicavs was a starter for the Southside Flyers in 2019/20. In 2020 Blicavs was a member of the Southside Flyers WNBL Championship winning team and earnt selection in the All-WNBL Second Team. Blicavs set a new-career-high with a field goal accuracy of 47.8% in 2020 and was even more damaging from long-range, making 25 of 50 three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%.

Along with the substantial highs there have been some significant lows including being cut by WNBA club Phoenix Mercury on 12 May 2021 and a fortnight later missing out on selection in Australia’s 12 player team for the Tokyo Olympics when it was named on 26 May.

On 20 July 2021 Blicavs received a late call-up to Australia’s Tokyo Olympic Games team and made her Olympic Games debut for the Opals 10 days later. The Opals were defeated by the USA in the quarter finals and Blicavs played three of Australia’s four games, averaging 9.0 minutes per game.  

At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held on home soil in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October Blicavs played in her second consecutive major championship for the Opals. Blicavs was brought into the Opals starting line-up mid-tournament and was a starter for Australia’s last five games of the tournament. Australia won the bronze medal at the 2022 World Cup, Blicavs averaged 17.1 minutes per game and ranked fifth for Australia in rebounds.

On winning a World Cup medal with the Opals at the 2022 World Cup after being cut by Phoenix Mercury and missing out on selection in Australia’s 12 player team for the Tokyo Olympics but then receiving a late call-up Blicavs commented to ESPN after the Opals victory in the bronze medal game at the 2022 World Cup “That hurt a lot but I didn’t lose hope and I didn’t give up on basketball. I think getting cut from both those made me realise that there is more to life and it has made me a happier more comfortable, calm basketball player, so just really enjoying myself and I just wanted to help the team as much as I could tonight especially, I just wanted to win so badly and I just didn’t want to give up. I knew the girls were tired and I was like look, I have a bit more gas left in my tank compared to theirs so I’ll just try my best.”

Blicavs bookended January 2023 with two milestones. In the first WNBL game of 2023 Blicavs scored a WNBL career-high 41 points in Southside’s 88-70 victory against crosstown rivals the Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 4 January 2023. In a extraordinary shooting exhibition Blicavs made 15 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 88%, all six three-pointers and all five free-throws. Blicavs became the seventh current WNBL player to reach 3,000 career points in Southside’s one point road win against Adelaide Lightning on 28 January. Blicavs achieved the milestones of 3,000 career WNBL points at 29 years of age, two and a half weeks before her 30th birthday which was yesterday, 15th February 2023.

Blicavs’ basketball career to date is comprehensively covered below, from the lows of her right ACL injury through to the highs of winning WNBL Championships, playing 250 WNBL games and receiving WNBL Life Membership and winning a bronze medal at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup with the Opals.   

Early life, family and junior career

Both of Sara’s parents – dad Andris and mum Karen represented Australian national basketball teams. Andris Blicavs played at three major championships for Australia comprised of the 1976 Olympic Games along with the 1974 and 1978 world championships whilst Karen Blicavs (nee Odgen) represented Australia at the 1983 world championships in Brazil and was selected for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games but was forced to withdraw from the team due to a knee injury. Karen was a star on the St Kilda team that won the first two WNBL championships in 1981 and 1982, she won the first two WNBL MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, being a joint winner along with Robyn Maher in the latter season.

Sara Blicavs was born on 15 February 1993 in Sunbury and has two older brothers, Kris and Mark. Kris has played several seasons of basketball at state league level in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) and NBL1 South and has worked as a strength and conditioning coach in the WNBL including for Sara’s team the Southside Flyers in 2019/20. After being an athlete competing in the 3,000 metres steeplechase Mark was selected by AFL club Geelong in the 2012 Rookie Draft. Mark has easily exceeded Geelong’s (and everyone else’s) expectations and is a two-time best and fairest winner- having won the award in 2015 playing as a midfielder and ruckman and in 2018 playing as a key defender. In 2022 Mark was a member of Geelong’s premiership side, finished on the podium in the Cats best and fairest for the fourth time and was selected in the All-Australian team for the first time in his career. 

As a junior Sara played basketball and also competed in athletics. A key factor in Sara preferring basketball over athletics was that she enjoyed being part of a team that worked together to achieve common goals more than competing as an individual in athletics.

Sara started playing basketball as a junior at 10 years of age for the Sunbury Jets and progressed to play on representative teams for the Melbourne Tigers. Impressive performances for the Tigers earnt her selection in Vic Metro under 16’s team and Sara went on to play in five consecutive National Championships with Vic Metro from the under 16’s to the under 20’s. Blicavs and current Flyers captain Aimie Rocci were members of the Victoria Metro team that won a gold medal at the 2008 under 16 National Championships. Three members of the current Southside Flyers team – Blicavs, Rocci and Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic) were members of the Vic Metro team that defeated Queensland South 65-64 in the final to win the gold medal at the  2010 Under 18 National Championships.

During Sayin’ it with Sara Episode 6 recorded on 30 September 2020 Rocci asked “What was it like growing up in the Blicavs family?” Sara responded “Ultra-competitive and I loved it. I absolutely loved growing up with two older brothers. It’s just unreal, it would be like do you want to play barbies, no throw the barbies out of my hand, let’s go kick the footy kind of stuff. It was just such a fun household, we were always so active and always doing stuff on the weekends. I am super grateful for my upbringing, I just think my family is beautiful, I adore each and every one of them immensely, I am very lucky.”

Sara represented the Australian Sapphires in the 2010 FIBA Under 17 World Championships and the Australian Gems in the 2011 FIBA Under 19 World Championships. At both tournaments Blicavs ranked in the top three for Australia in steals and in the top five for points and rebounds. The Australian Gems finished fourth in 2011 after being defeated by Brazil 67-70 in the bronze medal game.

Playing in the WNBL with the Australian Institute of Sport from 2009/10 to 2011/12

In late November 2009 Blicavs was announced as one of eight players receiving an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) scholarship in Canberra with the women’s basketball team. Blicavs was one of five Victorians to receive a scholarship along with Carley Ernst, 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 Georgia Minear. The AIS team 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.

Blicavs made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 16 years of age on 19 December 2009 in a home game against the Jayco Dandenong Rangers at the AIS Training Hall. On debut Blicavs made two of four field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, three of four free-throws at 75%, scored seven points, took two rebounds, made two assists and played 22 minutes and four seconds court-time in a 51-102 loss to Dandenong Rangers.

Another five AIS players made their WNBL debut in the same game – current Southside Flyers teammates Ernst and Cole along with current Bendigo Spirit guard Lavey, Levicki and Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett). Blicavs was the first of this crop to reach 250 games, achieving this milestone in late-December 2022, followed by Ernst plying game number 250 in late-January 2023. Another two players have each played over 220 WNBL games – Lavey (225 games) and Cole (229). 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. Lavey is a dual-sport athlete, having made her WNBL debut with Richmond in 2021 and has played a total of 25 games. 

Blicavs played the AIS’s last eight games of the 2009/10 season comprised of one game in 2009 and seven games in 2010. AIS teammates in the 2010 games in addition to the teammates from her debut game were current Australian Opals captain Tess Madgen, Maddie Garrick, Nicole Seekamp, Georgia Minear and Alex Sheedy. In her debut WNBL season with the AIS in 2009/10 Blicavs averaged 3.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 16.4 minutes per game.

Fast forwarding to the present and 13 years after her WNBL debut with the AIS Blicavs is teammates at the Southside Flyers with Cole and Ernst, and Minear is her brother Mark’s partner. One of the opposition Dandenong Rangers players Steph Cumming from Blicavs debut WNBL game for the AIS is now a member of the Blicavs family. Steph married Sara’s oldest brother Kris in March 2017, days after Sara and Steph were joint winners of the Jayco Rangers 2016/17 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. Sara and Steph have been teammates in the WNBL playing for Dandenong Rangers and the Southside Flyers, on the international stage playing for the Australian Opals and in NBL1 South playing for Geelong Supercats. Kris and Steph have two children, son Arlo and daughter Etta.

Against the West Coast Waves in the AIS’ penultimate game of the 2010/11 season on 11 February Blicavs was the only played in the game to register a double double, comprised of a team-high 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Blicavs made five of 10 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50% in the AIS’ 51-60 road loss. 

Between the AIS’ second and third games of the 2011/12 season AIS captain Bec Cole tore the ACL in her right knee at training and required a knee reconstruction. Due to players graduating from the AIS including Bueta and AIS team-mates including Cole suffering injuries Sara was given increased court-time in her third season and thrived with the added responsibility.

In each of her three seasons with the AIS Blicavs’ output improved. During Sara’s third and final season with the AIS Head Coach Phil Brown commented in late November 2011 that Sara Blicavs ”has never seen a shot she hasn’t liked, and her mum and dad were the same. That’s not a criticism, that’s great. Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Trish Fallon … you can probably count on one hand [Australians] who’ve been world-class scorers, and Sara potentially could be one of those players. Certainly in the women’s game we haven’t had a lot of players that have an unbelievable offensive presence. Sara’s picked up the athleticism [from her parents], and certainly the scoring orientation is not an issue.”1  

Blicavs gave a best on court performance in the AIS’s 68-67 victory at home in the AIS Training Hall on 25 November 2011. Blicavs made 12 of 20 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 60% and scored a game-high 27 points.

Even at that early stage of her career it was a goal of Sara’s to follow in her parents footsteps and represent Australia, commenting ”I always hear coaches talk about my parents and say they were pretty good, and you just want to be like them, or even better. That’s definitely my number one goal to make Opals and if I could get on a camp before the 2016 Olympics, that’d be great.”2

In a road game against West Coast Waves at Alice Springs Arena on 4 February 2012 Blicavs recorded a double double comprised of a game-high 20 points and an equal game-high 10 rebounds in a 78-63 victory. In an exceptional shooting performance Blicavs made nine of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 81.8%, made two assists and a game-high five steals.

The AIS had two wins and 20 losses in 2011/12 and finished in last position, percentage behind the West Coast Waves (now known as the Perth Lynx). In both of the AIS’ victories Sara scored at least 20 points and was the highest scorer for the game. During 2011/12 Blicavs played 21 games for the AIS, averaging 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 29.0 minutes per game. With her breakout 2011/12 season Blicavs well and truly stamped herself as one of the best young prospects in the WNBL, ranking fourth in the league for steals per game, 20th for points and equal 24th for rebounds.

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 is still located at the AIS in Canberra it is now 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.

Days before playing her 150th WNBL game Blicavs commented in October 2016 to about her start in the league at the AIS “I received my scholarship and Browny (Phil Brown) told us we had our first WNBL game in about two weeks. The team had six or eight new faces and we were all so skinny. I went from training once or twice a week and playing just once to playing a WNBL game every week- it was a massive shock to the system. In my first game, I had never been more tired in the first two minutes. I had no strength either. I don’t remember who it was but someone just touched me and I went flying. I’m very thankful for the AIS and being able to play for them in the WNBL. I got the chance to be seen by coaches and develop my game.”3

Playing in the WNBL with Dandenong Rangers in 2012/13

After graduating from the AIS Blicavs and Ernst both joined reigning WNBL champions the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for the 2012/13 season. The Rangers starters in 2012/13 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.

In her debut game with the Rangers Blicavs was brilliant, scoring 19 points at 57% field goal accuracy and took eight rebounds in a 90-75 victory against the Boomers on 5 October 2012 at Dandenong Stadium after starting on the bench.

A third of the way into the season the Rangers further strengthened their roster with the recruitment of American import guard Monica Wright. In a Round 7 road game vs Adelaide on 16 November Blicavs made eight of 14 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 57.1%, her only free-throw, scored an equal team-high 17 points, took six rebounds comprised of an equal game-high four offensive rebounds, and two defensive rebounds and made an equal team-high two steals in the Rangers 88-79 victory at Adelaide Arena.

Dandenong were one of the three standout teams during the 2012/13 regular season along with Bendigo and Adelaide. Dandenong finished second on the ladder with a record of 19 wins, five losses and a league leading 120%, two wins behind Bendigo and one win ahead of Adelaide. Dandenong lost their semi final on the road to Bendigo 71-78 and then were upset in a home preliminary final by Townsville 64-78.

Although Blicavs didn’t turn 20 years old until late in the 2012/13 season and was part of a very deep Rangers roster she played just under 50% game-time, playing all 26 games for Dandenong, averaging 7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 18.6 minutes per game. Blicavs’ field goal percentage increased in each of her first four seasons to be 46.5% in 2012/13. Sara ranked seventh at Dandenong for points per game, fifth for rebounds, fourth for steals and eighth for minutes played.

Playing in the WNBL for Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14 and 2014/15

Blicavs signed with the Bendigo Spirit for the 2013/14 WNBL season. Bendigo had won the 2012/13 WNBL Championship under head coach Bernie Harrower, making it two seasons in a row that that Sara had joined the defending WNBL champions. Bendigo had retained all their starters from 2012/13 in Grand Final MVP Kelsey Griffin, four-time Olympian Kristi Harrower, Kelly Wilson, Chelsey Aubrey and Gabe Richards and had recruited Elyse Penaluna from the Melbourne Boomers and Blicavs from Dandenong to strengthen their roster in 2013-14.

In Bendigo’s opening game of the 2013/14 season they lost to Townsville on the road 67-79. After unexpectedly making the 2012/13 Grand Final Townsville had strengthened their roster in the off-season recruiting three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic from Adelaide and Steph Blicavs from Dandenong.

Against Canberra in a road game at the AIS Training Hall on 20 October Blicavs scored 16 points and took 10 rebounds comprised of four offensive rebounds and six defensive rebounds in 19 minutes and 16 seconds court-time to be one of two players in the game to register a double double along with teammate Richards (19 points and 15 rebounds). In the Spirit’s 89-66 victory Blicavs made seven of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58%, made both free-throw attempts and had an equal game-high two steals. After their opening game loss to Townsville Bendigo won 16 consecutive games before losing to Townsville 70-81 at Bendigo Stadium in Round 15 on 18 January.

On Australia Day, 26 January 2014 in a Round 16 road game at the Townsville RSL Blicavs scored a team-high 25 points and took seven rebounds in Bendigo’s 78-57 victory against Townsville. Blicavs delivered a shooting exhibition to make 10 of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 76.9%, two of four three-pointers at 50% and three of four free-throws at 75%.

Bendigo won their last six games of the season and won the minor premiership for the second season in a row, having a regular season record of 22 wins and two losses in 2013/14, six wins ahead of the second placed Dandenong Rangers and Townsville Fire in third position. Bendigo continued their dominance over Dandenong to win their semi final 71-62 at Bendigo Stadium and qualify for their second Grand Final in a row, Townsville were their opponents again. Bendigo led Townsville in the 2013/14 Grand Final by two points at three quarter time. With the opening nine points of the final quarter Bendigo set up an 11 point victory over Townsville to win back to back WNBL championships. In 15 minutes court-time Blicavs scored six points and took three rebounds in the Spirit’s Grand Final victory. Bendigo forward Kelsey Griffin scored 28 points and took 15 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories and won the Grand Final MVP for the second year in a row.

During the 2013/14 WNBL season Blicavs played all 26 games for the Bendigo Spirit, averaging 9.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 20.2 minutes per game. Blicavs ranked sixth at Bendigo for points and rebounds per game, sixth for rebounds, equal second for steals, fourth for blocked shots and seventh for minutes played per game.

Bendigo retained most of their core for the 2014/15 season, the biggest changes were the departure of Elyse Penaluna and the recruitment of three-time Australian Olympian Belinda Snell. Blicavs played less than 16 minutes court-time in each of Bendigo’s first two games of the season and her court-time fluctuated greatly throughout the season. This was partly due to Harrower being prepared to mix up his team depending on match-ups and partly due to Blicavs quickly picking up multiple fouls in some games.

Early in the 2014/15 season Blicavs moved into Bendigo’s starting line-up. In successive road games on 9 November against Adelaide and 16 November against Dandenong Blicavs was the game-high scorer with 20 points and 24 points respectively. Against the Adelaide Lightning Blicavs also took eight rebounds, made six of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, two of three three-pointers at 66.7% and all six free-throws in just 23 minutes, 40 seconds court-time in the 43 point win, 76-33. Blicavs was even more accurate against Dandenong, making eight of 12 field-goal attempts, all eight free-throws, took four rebounds and made an equal game-high two steals during the 14 point victory, 89-75.

Blicavs scored more than 14 points in a game six times in 2014/15 including a purple patch where she achieved this feat four times in five games from Round 10 to Round 14. During this time Blicavs made nine of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 56%, scored a team-high 23 points and took six rebounds in a 70-73 loss at home against Canberra on 23 January.

Bendigo remained near the top of the WNBL ladder throughout the 2014/15 season but weren’t as dominant as they had been in the previous two seasons, recording 15 wins and seven losses to finished second, two wins behind minor premiers Townsville and three wins ahead of Dandenong in third place with the Sydney Uni Flames completing the top four on 11 wins.

In the semi final at Townsville the home side defeated Bendigo comfortably, 82-63. Bendigo defeated Sydney in a preliminary final at Bendigo by eight points to set up their third grand final in a row against Townsville. Bendigo led the Grand Final by two points at quarter-time however a dominant 26-16 second quarter gained Townsville the ascendancy and they won the club’s first ever WNBL championship 75-65. In the Grand Final Blicavs scored seven points and took four rebounds.

Throughout 2014/15 Blicavs played all 25 games for Bendigo Spirit, averaging 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 22.9 minutes per game. Blicavs ranked fourth at Bendigo for points per game behind Griffin, Snell and Richards, third for rebounds behind Griffin and Richards, equal first for steals with Griffin, third for blocked shots and fifth for minutes per game.

During three seasons from 2012/13 to 2014/15 the aggregate regular season records of the teams Sara played for was 56 wins and 14 losses with the most dominant season during this time being Bendigo’s 22 wins and two losses in 2013/14.

Consecutive top 10 finishes in the WNBL MVP Award playing for Dandenong Rangers in 2015/2016 and 2016/17

After two seasons at Bendigo Blicavs returned to the Dandenong Rangers for the 2015/16 season. In March 2015 Larissa Anderson was named as the Dandenong Rangers WNBL head coach for the 2015/16 season, replacing Mark Wright who held the role for the previous five seasons.

Four members of the Rangers core rotation from 2014/15 returned in 2015/16, starter American import Annalise Pickrel, 2014/15 WNBL Rookie of the Year Lauren Scherf, Aimie Rocci and Tegan Cunningham. Anderson was the first woman to coach the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL, and shortly after her appointment stated an intention to recruit players that had represented the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL previously. Anderson followed through on this, recruiting five former Rangers players in Sara Blicavs, Steph Blicavs, Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton), Amelia Todhunter and Alison Downie. The Rangers also recruited centre Alex Bunton.

Sara Blicavs during the pre-game introductions playing for Dandenong Rangers game against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 January 2016

In her previous five WNBL seasons from 2010/11 to 2014/15 Sara Blicavs had proven that she could make an impact and had averaged between 7.5 and 12.5 points per game in all five seasons but averaged more than 60% (24 minutes) game-time in only season – 29.2 minutes per game in her final season with the AIS in 2011/12.

During the 2015/16 season with the Jayco Rangers Blicavs was a permanent starter alongside sister-in-law Steph Blicavs and elevated her game to another stratosphere, being named in the WNBL’s Team of the Week three times – Rounds 3, 11 and 13.

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Sara Blicavs playing for Dandenong Rangers game against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 January 2016

In a 2015/16 Round 3 road game against Perth on 25 October at Bendat Basketball Centre  Blicavs played a brilliant all-round game for the Rangers, scored a team-high 19 points, took a game-high 14 rebounds, made a game-high six assists and had an equal game-high two steals.

In an interview with the Dandenong Journal between Round 3 and Round 4 of the 2016/17 WNBL season Blicavs spoke about the influence her family had on her career and the benefits they get from being able to draw on each other’s experiences. Blicavs said “You hear it from coaches, and you hear it from players and other people – and even your parents – about what to do but for me it doesn’t really click until my brothers say it to me. Mark is brutally honest with me and I’m the same with him. It’s good because we do feed off each other. But Kris, in particular, I play a lot of one-on-one and two-on-two with. I shoot around and work out with him and I think he’s quite smart and he really knows what he’s talking about. I know it’s clichéd but I really respect my parents and what they’ve done in the basketball world. They are a massive influence but really my brothers are too. I absolutely adore and love them. They all ride the highs and lows with me.”4

In a six point Round 11 win at home against cross-town rival the Melbourne Boomers on 18 December Blicavs scored a game-high 21 points, making eight of 17 field goals at an accuracy of 47.1% in a team-high 34 minutes and 22 seconds court-time. Blicavs also took seven rebounds and made some crucial free-throws in the final quarter after being fouled whilst using her athleticism to drive to the basket.

Blicavs was selected in the WNBL team of the week for Round 13 – her third and final selection for the season, scoring 16 points in each game, a 16 point road-win against Adelaide and then a thrilling three point win against Sydney at Dandenong Stadium. Blicavs shot the ball superbly against Adelaide, making five of her eight field goal attempts for an accuracy of 62.5%, made all six free-throws and took eight rebounds. Blicavs’ 16 points against Sydney was a game-high, she also took a team-high 11 rebounds and made two steals.

The Dandenong Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder with a record of 15 wins and nine losses in 2015/16, two wins behind minor premiers, Townsville Fire and one win behind the second placed Perth Lynx. The fourth placed SEQ Stars also finished with 15 wins and nine losses but lost the tie-breaker due to Dandenong having the better head-to-head record, winning two of the three games between the clubs. A key reason in Dandenong making the WNBL finals was their remarkable record in close games, of their 14 games decided by eight points or less during the 2015/16 regular season they won 12 and lost only two.

In a semi final 82-86 loss to the SEQ Stars at Dandenong Basketball Stadium on 27 February 2016 Blicavs was phenomenal, playing one of the all-time great WNBL finals games to score a then career-high and game-high 38 points on 14 of 26 field goals, took a team-high nine rebounds and make an equal team-high four assists. Some of the shots Blicavs made against SEQ under strong defensive pressure were extraordinary, as well as shooting at 54% from the field including making three of her six three-pointers Sara made all seven free-throw attempts.

During the 2015/16 WNBL season Blicavs played all 25 games for the Dandenong Rangers and averaged 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 31.4 minutes per game to set new WNBL career-highs for points, rebounds, assists and minutes per game. Blicavs ranked third at the Rangers for points behind Steph Blicavs and Annalise Pickrel, second for rebounds behind Pickrel, first for steals and second for minutes played and assists behind Steph. Sara finished 10th in the 2015/16 WNBL MVP Award, polling 56 votes, ranked second at the Jayco Rangers behind Steph Blicavs who polled 73 votes and finished sixth.

After signing with the Dandenong Rangers in early May 2016 for the 2016/17 WNBL season Sara commented on “The girls are beautiful and such a joy to be around, train against and play with. The coaches are great to work with and helped me immensely last season, and the club as a whole is a fantastic environment to be a part of. I cannot wait for next season and hopefully the fans can be just as marvellous as they were last season.”5

In an interview on Radio Station SEN’s The Run Home in October 2016 Blicavs commented on how the WNBL compared to other leagues in the world, saying “It’s definitely up there, WNBL is in the top three leagues, so I think we have got, WNBA is obviously the best league in the world, then you have got Euroleague and us right behind and we are getting WNBA stars in, Americans are coming down to Australia to play as well, the league is great. Definitely every year it gets better and better, it is a great challenge, it’s fast, it’s exciting, honestly I think women are a bit smarter than men so it is a very tactical game.”

Throughout the 2016/17 WNBL season the Rangers most frequently used starting line-up was Aimie Rocci, Steph and Sara Blicavs, Lauren Scherf and Ally Malott. Other members of the Rangers nine-player core rotation were guards Natalie Novosel and Amelia Todhunter along with forwards Jacinta Kennedy and Rosie Fadljevic.  

In the Jayco Rangers first home game of the 2016/17 WNBL season against Perth Lynx on 16 October 2016 at Dandenong Stadium Blicavs played the 150th WNBL game of her career. Blicavs reached the milestone at just 23 years of age early in her eighth WNBL season.

In a Round 4 Melbourne Cup Eve game in front of 2,332 people at the State Basketball Centre against the Melbourne Boomers the Rangers struggled in the first quarter. Blicavs scored nine of Dandenong’s first 13 points and the Boomers led 29-16 at quarter-time. The Rangers trailed 59-61 with four minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Blicavs finished the game strongly to score six points from that point on comprised of a lay-up, jump shot and two free-throws as the Rangers went on a 10-6 run to win 69-67. Sara finished the game with a game-high 28 points shooting at 57% from the field, took six rebounds, made two steals playing the full 40 minutes and was the catalyst for the Dandenong defeating their cross-town rival.

Sara Blicavs playing for Dandenong Rangers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 31 October 2016

Against the Sydney Uni Flames in Round 9 at Dandenong Basketball Stadium on 3 December Blicavs played a pivotal role in the Rangers recovering from a 43-56 deficit at half-time to record a fight-back 91-83 victory. The Rangers dominated the third term 26-14 led by 10 points from Blicavs who played a brilliant all-round game, scoring 19 points shooting 66% from the field and made three of four three-pointers, took eight rebounds, made five assists and an equal game-high two steals.

On the road against Adelaide Lightning at Adelaide Arena in Round 10 Blicavs registered a double double comprised of 25 points and 13 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories in the 79-64 victory. Sara made nine of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 56.3%, seven of eight free-throws at 87.5% and made two steals. Blicavs was a strong presence on the boards at both ends of the court, taking six defensive rebounds and seven offensive rebounds.

During the regular season Sara was named in the WNBL’s Team of the Week four times – Rounds 4, 9, 10 and 15. In Round 10 and Round 15 Blicavs excelled in road games against Adelaide at Adelaide Arena. In Round 15 Blicavs scored 20 points, took four rebounds, made a team-high four assists and a game-high five steals in an 85-55 victory.

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The Dandenong Rangers had 15 wins and nine losses during the 2016/17 regular season to finish second at the end of the regular season. The Rangers defeated Perth Lynx two games to one in a semi final series. In the Grand Final series Dandenong were defeated by Sydney Flames two games to nil. In game 1 of the Grand Final Blicavs scored a game-high 25 points at 61% from the field and took an equal game-high eight rebounds in an 85-92 road loss at Brydens Stadium.

Blicavs played all 29 games for the Jayco Rangers during 2016/17 including five finals, averaging 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 32.5 minutes per game. Sara led the Rangers in rebounds and ranked second at the Rangers for points behind Steph who averaged 17.5 points per game and ranked third for steals. Sara ranked equal seventh in the WNBL for steals per game, ninth for points and 12th for rebounds.

The biggest development in Blicavs’ game during the 2016/17 season was her significantly improved three-point shooting. On the eve of the 2016/17 season Blicavs had made a total of 33 three-pointers in her WNBL career, a tally she exceeded in the 2016/17 season alone, making 34 three-pointers from 87 attempts for an accuracy of 39.1%. Blicavs 1.2 three-pointers made per game ranked 17th in the league. Among players that had at least 10 three-point shot attempts in 2016/17 Blicavs ranked 12th for accuracy.

Sara Blicavs finished equal fifth in the 2016/17 WNBL MVP Award on 73 votes, just ahead of Rangers team-mate Steph in seventh place on 70 votes. Very little separated Sara and Steph in the league MVP award and it was even closer in the Rangers MVP Award as the duo couldn’t be split. The tie resulted in Sara winning her first MVP Award at a WNBL club and Steph winning the third Rangers MVP Award of her career – having previously won in 2009/10 and 2015/16. Days after the Rangers 2016/17 WNBL Awards Steph married Sara’s oldest brother Kris.

Sara Blicavs, Steph Blicavs (nee Cimming) and Amelia Todhunter after the Dandenong Rangers defeated the Melbourne Boomers 69-67 at the State Basketball Centre on 31 October 2016

Representing Australia at senior level from 2012 to 2017

At the inaugural 2012 FIBA 3×3 Women’s World Championships hosted by Greece from 23 to 26 August Blicavs represented Australia along with Alice Kunek, Tess Madgen and Katie Ebzery. The 24 nations competing were split into four groups of six. Australia won all five Pool A games to top their pool and advance to the last 16. In the knockout stage Australia excelled to defeat Germany 21-4 in the last 16 and the Czech Republic 16-11 in a quarter final. After being defeated in a semi final by USA 18-19 Australia won a thrilling bronze medal game against the Ukraine 18-17 to finish on the podium at the 2012 FIBA 3×3 Women’s World Championships.

In June 2013 Blicavs represented the Australian Opals in a three game series against the Chinese national team in China. At the 2015 Oceania Championships held in August 2015 Blicavs was a member of the Australian Opals team that defeated New Zealand two games to nil to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. A double-header was held on 15 August 2015 at Rod Laver Arena with game 1 of the Women’s Oceania Series followed by game 1 of the same series for Men, also between Australia and New Zealand. The double header at Rod Laver Arena was a sell-out attracting more than 15,000 people and at the time of tip-off for the Women’s game the crowd had reached 11,500. In the two game Oceania series Blicavs played a total of only 10 minutes but impressed with her rebounding too take six rebounds in her limited court-time to rank equal fifth for Australia for total rebounds at the Oceania Championships.

After current Opals captain Tess Madgen suffered an ankle injury Blicavs received a late call-up to play for the Opals in a test-event held in Rio in January 2016 in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games.

In an interview with Dandenong Rangers TV after being named as the Opals injury replacement player for Madgen Sara was asked ‘What does representing the country mean to you?’ Blicavs responded “Everyone says it, it is kind of a cliché to say it is an honour, but when I played at Rod Laver Arena for the Oceania series and it was in Australia in front of Australians in front of my family, I actually knew what that meant and what that felt like, and it was a massive thing and so surreal to me, so I am going to stick with that and say that it is a big honour and so exciting and I get happy when I think my parents are proud.”

Blicavs attended several Opals Training Camps and played on several overseas tours during 2016 before being cut from the Opals Olympic games squad on 29 June 2016 when it was reduced from 17 players to 15 players.

When being interviewed and Radio Station SEN’s ‘The Run Home’ in October 2016 Sara commented on being cut from the Opals Rio Olympics Games team “Honestly I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I never have, and I was never expecting to make the team, so to make the top 15 I think it was just a bonus and I was actually just happy to be there, although watching the girls play in Rio did hurt me a little bit, especially after them losing to Serbia, but that’s life and those things happen and I am still raring to go.”

Sara and her sister in-law Steph were both selected in the Australian Opals team for the 2017 Asia Cup hosted in Bengaluru India from 22 to 29 July. It was the first time since 2013 that Steph had represented the Opals. With Australia’s WNBA players being unavailable Sara was able to play a more prominent role which she capitalised on.

In the opening game of the tournament Sara started for the Opals alongside Belinda Snell and Mariana Tolo in the front court with Tessa Lavey and Katie Ebzery in the backcourt. In the Opals second game of the tournament, a 107-65 victory against the Philippines an S Blicavs led Australia for points, rebounds, assists and steals even though the sisters-in-law both started on the bench. Sara led Australia with eight rebounds, six assists and four steals whilst Steph led the Opals in scoring with 18 points just ahead of Sara with 17 points. Sara made seven of her 13 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 54%. The Opals lost a thrilling gold medal match to Japan 73-74, winning the silver medal. Sara played all six games, averaging 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 20.0 minutes per game to rank third for the Opals in scoring, fourth in rebounding and first for steals.

Playing in the SEABL from 2012 to 2017 including five seasons for Geelong Supercats

From 2012 to 2017 Blicavs played six seasons and a total of 112 games in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL). Blicavs played for Launceston Tornadoes in 2012 and for the Geelong Supercats from 2013 to 2017. In all six seasons Blicavs averaged at least 14.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

To celebrate their 20th SEABL season in 2016 the Geelong Supercats named the top 20 players to represent the club in the SEABL over this 20 year period. Blicavs was selected in the top 20, a couple of players that joined her in this select group were Deanna Smith and Anna Teague.  

In 2017 the Geelong Supercats coached by David Herbert finished second on the SEABL ladder with 18 wins and four losses. Geelong progressed to the Championship game and played Bendigo Braves at Kilsyth Sports Centre on 2 September. After Geelong trailed Bendigo 26-40 at half-time the Supercats outscored Bendigo 50-27 in the second half to record a 76-67 victory and win the SEABL Championship. Blicavs registered a double double in the Championship game comprised of 25 points and 13 rebounds to set game-highs in both categories. 

The Geelong Supercats with their 2017 SEABL Championship banner on 2 September 2017 at Kilsyth Basketball Stadium after defeating the Bendigo Braves in the Grand Final

In 2017 Blicavs led the SEABL with 23.3 points per game, shot at 50.3% from the field and 41.9% for three-pointers. Blicavs earnt selection in the All-SEABL team in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

Sara Blicavs shooting a free-throw for Geelong Supercats in the 2017 SEABL Grand Final against Bendigo Braves on 2 September 2017 at Kilsyth Basketball Stadium

For the Geelong Supercats SEABL double header on 20 July 2018 against the Canberra Capitals (women’s) and Canberra Gunners (men’s) the Supercats teams wore a “specially designed singlet that represents the clubs 40 year history. The singlet features the names of the 248 players and Head Coaches in the clubs 40 year history, both men’s and women’s; it also features the images of four of the clubs greatest players.”6 The four players selected to have their images featured on the singlet were Blicavs and 2011 SEABL MVP Deanna Smith representing the women’s teams along with Nathan Herbert and Cal Bruton representing the men’s teams. Due a knee injury Blicavs was unable to play for Geelong during the 2018 SEABL season.  

Blicavs commented to on her inclusion on Geelong’s heritage singlet, saying “I never would have thought that my photo would end up on an actual playing jersey! One, because I didn’t know you could do that, but two, because for me, I’m still that young girl shooting hoops in my backyard still looking up to my role models. I feel super privileged and humbled to be a part of this and with the calibre of amazing players who I get to be next too. This club is truly the most amazing club I’ve ever been a part of and I honestly feel so proud to tell people I play with the Geelong Supercats.”7

Knee reconstruction and rehabilitation

Six Australians on the Jayco Rangers 2017/18 roster each had more than 100 games WNBL experience before the start of the season – Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming), Sara Blicavs, Tessa Lavey, Carly Ernst, Amelia Todhunter and Tayla Roberts. The Rangers two imports were American power forward/centre Kayla Pedersen and Spanish point guard Laia Palau. Early in the season the Rangers core rotation was comprised of these eight players.

The Dandenong Rangers team just before their game against Sydney Flames at Dandenong Stadium on 29 October 2017

Sara commenced the 2017/18 WNBL season with the Jayco Dandenong Rangers in similar form to her previous two seasons and was named in the Round 3 WNBL Team of the Week after averaging 18 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in the Rangers victories against the University of Canberra Capitals and the Townsville Fire. In the round 3 road game against the Capitals on 22 October 2017 at the National Convention Centre the Rangers trailed 53-60 at three quarter-time. In the fourth quarter Blicavs scored eight points comprised of two jump shots and two lay ups to help the Rangers outscore Canberra 24-16 for the term to record a thrilling one point fightback victory, 77-76. Blicavs finished the game with a game-high 24 points shooting at 47.8% from the field, 11 rebounds comprised of four offensive and seven defensive, made a team-high six assists and made an equal game-high two steals in a brilliant all-round game.

Sara Blicavs playing for Dandenong Rangers against Sydney Flames at Dandenong Stadium on 29 October 2017

In a Round 6 Friday night game against the Adelaide Lightning at Dandenong Basketball Stadium on 10 November 2017 Blicavs suffered a serious knee injury just before half-time when she was doing a lay-up. Days later it was confirmed that Sara required a knee reconstruction and would miss the remainder of the season, however Blicavs had actually suffered three injuries, rupturing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), ripped the meniscus root of the bone and fractured her kneecap.

Blicavs had been incredibly durable and hadn’t missed a game in the previous five completed seasons from 2012/13 to 2016/17. Blicavs had been on an upward trajectory with her scoring average increasing by at least 1.5 points per game in all five seasons during this time, rising from 7.5 points per game in 2012/13 to 15.5 points per game in 2016/17. From 29 January 2012 until her knee injuries against Adelaide Blicavs had played 144 consecutive WNBL games.

During 2017/18 Sara played nine games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, setting a new career-high for assists per game and an equal career-high for rebounds per game – matching the level she had achieved in 2016/17. Among players that played at least five games in 2017/18 Blicvas ranked equal fifth in the WNBL for steals,  10th for scoring per game, 12th for rebounds and  equal 18th for assists. Blicavs Sara had 16 of 18 free-throws at a career-high accuracy of 88.9% – ranked equal 11th in the league. Sara ranked equal first at the Jayco Rangers for steals per game with Todhunter, second in scoring and minutes played per game behind Steph, second for rebounds behind Pedersen and equal third for assists with Lavey. 

For the 2017/18 WNBL season a new basketball podcast commenced, The WNBL Show which was co-hosted by Megan Hustwaite and Blicavs. On The WNBL Show Blicavs commented on the chance to work on different aspects of her game during her recovery saying “I think you just get in that routine of constantly training and constantly playing that you never actually have that time to work a little bit harder because you could be too sore for the next game or stuff, so now me being on this nine month break I get the chance now to do all those little things and revamp my game and strengthen my weaknesses, work on my left hand and as much as dad loves this working I’m getting low to the ground. I do see this as me coming back better than ever, it is going to take some time, it will make me mentally stronger because I know there is going to be setbacks and from what I hear you will struggle.”

Whilst Sara expected to have set-backs during the rehabilitation process following her knee reconstruction she ended up having far more set-backs throughout the process than what she anticipated. Throughout her rehabilitation Sara had a strong support network including her immediate family. On her parents mum Karen and dad Andris Sara commented to Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “They were super great obviously, they helped me with the exercises and I guess doing them with me too. I think just hearing what they had to say and the fact that they could still play after their knee injuries. They were super supportive, they both played basketball at a high level so they understood my frustrations and it is nice when someone can understand that and know how it feels.”

“You think it is going to be a struggle and I had about eight setbacks in my proper injury rehab kind of process so that was really tough on me mentally but like I said I had a very good support system. I was very lucky where my brother was a strength and conditioning coach, a personal trainer and he has done a whole injury prevention. As soon as I did my ACL he took himself to an ACL course so as soon as I could start back in the gym Kris was there to help me out with all of that stuff and he was phenomenal for me and I just had good people around me to help me get through it.”

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After her knee reconstruction Blicavs had hoped that she would only miss nine months of basketball, however with the numerous setbacks she ended up missing 13 months, making her WNBL return in a Jayco Rangers home game at Dandenong Stadium against the Bendigo Spirit in Round 10 on Sunday 16 December 2018. In the days before her return game Sara commented to Fairfax Media journalist Roy Ward “I’ve done three team sessions for about an hour – so I’m definitely a rust bucket but no excuses, I know I will always bring effort. I’ve been training by myself for a while now and then the last three weeks has been a rush. My knee hasn’t been rushed back, it has responded really well, it has just been a rush to get me back out on the basketball court. I’ve done one five-minute full-court game so we’re just going to throw me in there and see how I go.”8 In her return game Blicavs scored five points, took five rebounds and played 12 minutes and five seconds court-time in Dandenong’s 87-63 victory against Bendigo.

As a preventative measure Sara didn’t play back-to-back games in the following rounds, instead playing one game per round. Playing limited minutes off the bench for the Jayco Rangers during her six games in the 2018/19 season Sara averaged 4.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 13.7 minutes court-time per game. Whilst Sara had successfully returned after her knee reconstruction the rehabilitation process continued long after her return game as she gradually gained confidence in her body and her game.

In 2019 a new league NBL1 was established as the premier winter basketball league in Southern Australia consisting of 18 teams, succeeding the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) which was disbanded.

After missing the 2018 SEABL season due to her knee injury Blicavs returned to the Geelong Supercats for the 2019 NBL1 season, averaging 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Blicavs formed a powerful front-court trio with Ezi Magbegor and Zitina Aokuso. In the NBL1 Grand Final at the State Basketball Centre Geelong were defeated by the Kilsyth Cobras 76-86.

Selection in the Australian Opals 2019 FIBA Asia Cup team

At the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup held in Bangalore, India from September 24 to 29 Blicavs was a member of the Australian Opals team. In an interview with Milestones and Misses in May 2020 Blicavs reflected on her selection in the Opals team for the 2019 Asia Cup, commenting “To know that the coaching staff had faith in me, that was really good, but to be honest I didn’t feel prepared in myself and my body, I didn’t feel that I was ready to play at an international level, I had only played like 20 games of NBL1, to get then thrown in to the Asia Cup, where you are playing against the quickest Asians and the quickest style of play. So yeah I don’t think I was too ready for that but in saying that I think it was good to me mentally to get back in to it and I think there comes a point of time where you need to just get chucked into this stuff so you can’t use your knee as an excuse anymore, you know what I mean. It had been six months since I had been back and it was time for me to actually lock in and start doing stuff and I think that was good for me.”

There was a sizeable gap from Australia, Japan and China to the remaining five teams at the tournament. After a loss to China 69-70 in the group stage Australia faced Japan in a semi-final and were defeated 64-76. Australia easily won the bronze medal game at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup against Korea 98-62. Blicavs played all six games for the Opals, averaging 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 14.9 minutes per game. Blicavs ranked equal second for the Opals in steals and equal fifth in rebounds.

2019/20 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers

In July 2019 the Dandenong Rangers WNBL license was transferred from the Dandenong Basketball Association to Gerry Ryan who in 1975 founded Jayco who were the naming rights sponsor of the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team from 1997 to 2019. After the announcement of the license transfer and the establishment of the Southside Flyers Ryan commented “The Southside name reflects our commitment to create a team with support from the beachside suburbs of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula through to the Dandenong Ranges, Gippsland and beyond. The Flyers hopefully will describe the style of play and success of the team within the WNBL. Our vision is to significantly broaden the support for the new team and to get the whole basketball community involved. The name Southside Flyers reflects this vision.”9 The Southside Flyers respect the history of the Dandenong Rangers.

On Gerry Ryan taking over the license from the Dandenong Basketball Association and the rebranding of WNBL club the Dandenong Rangers to the Southside Flyers Sara commented to The Pick and Roll after Round 1 of the 2019/20 WNBL season “It’s been a huge change, with Gerry Ryan having taken ownership of the club. He’s not just invested in us, but he’s very supportive of women’s sport and the whole set up feels very professional. The stadium has been redone, it’s absolutely unreal. I think teal is very pretty!”10

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Sara Blicavs playing for the Southside Flyers in a pre-season game against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 October 2019

Cheryl Chambers was appointed as the inaugural head coach of the Southside Flyers. Chambers is currently an assistant coach of the Australian Opals and had two stints as a WNBL head coach previously – with the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers for eight seasons from 2001/02 to 2008/09 and with the Sydney Uni Flames for three seasons from 2016/17 to 2018/19. The Flames won the WNBL Championship in 2016/17 after defeating Dandenong 2-0 in the Grand Final series.

The Southside Flyers played their inaugural WNBL game against the Townsville Fire at Dandenong Basketball Stadium on 12 October, the Flyers regular starting line-up throughout the 2019/20 season was Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole in the backcourt along with Blicavs, Jenna O’Hea and American import Mercedes Russell in the front-court. All five Flyers starters averaged more than 28.0 minutes per game and sixth woman Rocci averaged 22.5 minutes per game. Three members in the Flyers nine player core rotation – Anneli Maley, Kiera Rowe and Louella Tomlinson averaged between 8.0 and 13.0 minutes per game.

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Blicavs was named in the WNBL’s Round 3 Team of the Week for her performance in the 85-77 victory against Bendigo in Traralgon when she was exceptional from long-range, making five of her eight three-pointers at an accuracy of 62.5% from behind the arc and scored a game-high 23 points.


Sara Blicavs playing for the Southside Flyers against Bendigo Stadium at Traralgon Stadium on 26 October 2019

The following round the Jayco Southside Flyers hosted the Bendigo Spirit again, this time at their regular home court at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, Blicavs was quiet from a scoring perspective until the final quarter, only having five points at the final change when the Flyers led 63-61. Blicavs started the final quarter in perfect fashion with a steal and a lay-up in the first 10 seconds and went on to dominate the final quarter, scoring a total of 16 points for the term to gain the ascendancy for the Flyers who recorded their fifth straight victory, 93-80. Sara shot at 50% from the field and finished the game with 21 points – ranked second for the game behind team-mate Cole with 23 points, took three rebounds and made a game-high three steals.

In late November and early December 2019 Blicavs registered three double-doubles in four games including 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 91-83 Flyers victory on the road against Adelaide at Titanium Security Arena on Sunday evening 1 December in her 200th WNBL game. Blicavs reached the significant milestone at 26 years of age despite missing 13 months of basketball due to her knee injury. The only player on Southside’s 2019/20 roster that had played more WNBL games than Sara was the Flyers captain O’Hea who started the 2019/20 season on 255 games and added another 18 games to her tally during the season.

Against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre in Round 13 on Sunday 12 January the Flyers trailed by four points with one minute and 25 seconds remaining but were able to bridge the gap, send the game to overtime and won the game 75-73 in the first period of overtime, however the victory came at a cost. Flyers captain O’Hea broke her wrist when she and Boomers forward Ezi Magbegor met solidly when they both dove after a loose-ball. O’Hea played out the game but was expected to miss 10 to 12 weeks which would cause her to miss the Opals Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February and the remainder of the WNBL season.

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The Flyers had been in great form however they were more reliant on their starting five than the other teams in the top four with all five starters Cole, Russell, Mitchell, O’Hea and Blicavs ranking in the top 20 of the WNBL for scoring. One of the queries experts had about the Flyers roster was how they would fare without one of their starters for an extended time so O’Hea’s wrist injury would test the depth of the Flyers, guard Aimie Rocci was brought into the starting line-up.

In the final round of the 2019/20 WNBL regular season – Round 16, Blicavs scored a team-high 18 points for the Flyers in a 78-61 victory against the Sydney Uni Flames from just 19 minutes and 52 seconds court-time. In a brilliant all-round game Sara shot the ball proficiently, making all eight field goal attempts and both free-throw attempts, she also had eight rebounds and six assists to set game-highs in both categories and had two steals. Blicavs was named the WNBL Player of the Week for Round 16, earning her second Team of the Week selection for the season, having previously been named in Round 3. The day after the final round victory Chambers, Blicavs and Mitchell all departed Melbourne and travelled to France for Australian Opals duties at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Southside Flyers recorded 17 wins and four losses during the 2019/20 season to finish on top of the ladder, two wins ahead of the University of Canberra Capitals and Melbourne Boomers who finished second and third respectively, followed by the Adelaide Lightning in fourth position on 12 wins.

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The Flyers won their semi final series against Adelaide two games to nil, winning each game by three points, 68-65 at home in game 1 and 82-79 on the road in game 2. All five Flyers starters scored at least 12 points in game 2 with Rocci scoring a season high 18 points.

Southside captain O’Hea returned from injury for the Grand Final series and after starting game one on the bench returned to the starting line-up for game 2. Very little separated the Flyers and the Capitals during the Grand Final series, the Flyers held the lead in both games of the Grand Final series at a stage in the last four minutes, however in the dying stages the Capitals were more composed and shot the ball more efficiently to win game 1 82-80 at Dandenong Stadium and game 2 71-68 at the AIS Arena on 4 March.

Blicavs played all 25 games for the Southside Flyers in 2019/20, averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 31.3 minutes per game. Sara ranked second at the Flyers for rebounds per game behind Russell, third for minutes per game and fifth for scoring and steals per game. Of the players that played at least five games Blicavs ranked 19th in the WNBL for points per game, 12th for rebounds and 25th for steals. Sara made 33 three-pointers – one less than her tally in 2016/17 and ranked equal 21st in the league with 1.3 three-pointers made per game. Blicavs’ three point accuracy of 37.1% ranked equal 18th in the WNBL among players that attempted at least 10 three-pointers for the season.

Sara Blicavs shooting a free-throw for Southside Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019

In May 2020 I asked Sara “How long did it take for the confidence in your body and as a basketball player to return once you started playing again?” Sara responded “Yeah, that is a really good question, actually. I found the hardest part in my rehab was once I was six months back playing, because I didn’t feel like myself, my brain wasn’t switched on to my body and vice-versa. My skills were behind, I wasn’t as sharp, I wasn’t as quick and I think that was the hardest part mentally because I was starting to think that maybe I won’t come back and play at a high level like I want to and be the kind of player that I want to be. So yeah, last year was really tough for me, I came back at the start of last year, then I played NBL1 for Geelong, felt really rusty and it probably wasn’t until maybe halfway through the recent WNBL season that I actually started feeling good again. Started feeling like my decision making was correct and my touch was a lot better and I started actually reading plays rather than trying to think ahead. Yeah for me, that was the hardest part of my rehab and mentally I found it really tough but thank god I am out of that rut because I feel like I can actually play basketball again.”

Impact of social distancing measures during COVID-19

Sara had signed to play with the Geelong Supercats in the 2020 NBL1 South seasonand was going to be playing alongside her sister-in-law Steph who had her son Arlo in October 2019 and couldn’t play in the 2019/20 WNBL season. Due to the social distancing measures in place as a result of the coronavirus the 2020 NBL1 season for all three conferences were cancelled before they started.

On the impact social distancing measures had on her training Sara commented in May 2020 “It’s OK, I am lucky enough, I still have access to a stadium so I am still managing to train everyday, train differently, I think it is a really good time for people to get creative, I have been running a lot more, gymming, the weight room is a little bit different to me and I am just trying new things, yeah, trying to keep myself entertained, it has been good for my brain, it has been challenging, it is not too bad. I am very much looking forward to restrictions easing off though, I think everyone will be.”

“I have been working on ball-handling, coming off on-balls, decision making and skills during this iso-time which has been really fun for me. Just making sure I am mastering the three point shot, I feel like that has become one of my weapons now and I am getting a lot better at it so if I can just make sure I am clutch at the three-point line. Possibly getting rebounds, working on that and my post-game, I have got to be able to post smaller guards and yeah like I said really refining my skills and making sure I am great at everything rather than good at everything.”

May 2020 – Reflection on the previous two and a half years and looking forward

When asked by Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “What have you learnt about yourself and other people during the past two and a half years?” Sara replied “That is a big question. Probably that I am more resilient than I thought I was (laughs), again going back to the injury, it was just like the best thing for me and I think during that time you know my mindset changed completely. I am very much a whatever happens happens kind of person now, and a silver lining for everything. I think too, you know being around more elite athletes I just think that mentally even the best players go through lapses and go through struggles where they are down on confidence. I guess when you think of the elite athletes that are out there, you idolise them you never think that they would go through stuff like that, so to actually see that everyone is human. I think that is a really cool thing, it might make you more empathetic.”

On her goals for the future Blicavs commented to Milestones and Misses in May 2020 “Well obviously everyone’s goal is to make the Australian team, you know make the Olympics, I kind of want to solidify my spot in the Australian team though I don’t want to be on the outskirts, I want to actually be part of the team and contribute in a solid way. Like you can have all the goals of I want to make WNBA and I want to play in that for a while and all that stuff but I just want to make sure that I am happy with how I am going and making sure that I am I guess as good as I can be, you know not leaving anything out there and not always wondering if I did this maybe that could have been me. I feel like with my knee’s now especially I may only have five years left in my career until I can’t walk anymore (laughs), just to know if that is my time-frame I may as well give it as much as I can.”

Winning a WNBL Championship with Southside Flyers in 2020 and earning selection on the All-WNBL Second Team

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 at three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November and each team played 13 regular season games.

Although it was more difficult for fans to attend games in 2020 due to the season being played in hubs in North Queensland the WNBL had an increased television presence and there was less competition from other sports for the attention of viewers. All 56 games during the 2020 WNBL season were broadcast on Kayo, 10 games including the Grand Final were shown on free to air  television network ABC and 21 games including all four finals were telecast on Foxtel.

Nine players from the Southside Flyers 2019/20 team returned for the 2020 WNBL season including five of the six Flyers players that averaged more than 20 minutes per game during the 2019/20 season in Blicavs, Mitchell, Cole, O’Hea and Rocci. American centre Mercedes Russell was unable to return due to being an import. The other four returning Southside players were Rebecca Pizzey along with three development players – Saraid Taylor, Taylah Giliam and Amy O’Neill.

Southside recruited four players for the 2020 WNBL season, centre Liz Cambage, dual sport athlete Monique Conti and two veterans returning to the WNBL after not playing during 2019/20 in forward Rachel Jarry and guard Steph Blicavs. Cambage and Jarry were both two-time Olympians and played in the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers only WNBL championship in 2010/11 alongside O’Hea. Cambage played 10 games for the Jayco Rangers during her 2007/08 debut WNBL season whilst Jarry played for the Rangers in 2018/19 before having a season off in 2019/20. After having her son Arlo in October 2019 Steph Blicavs made her WNBL return in 2020 and continued her long history with the Dandenong based WNBL team.

During the 2020 WNBL pre-season Sara hosted a series called Sayin it with Sara on Instagram Live where each week she interviewed a Southside Flyers teammate. In episode 6 the roles were reversed with Aimie Rocci interviewing Sara. In episode 6 recorded on 30 September Blicavs spoke about the 2020 WNBL season, saying “I can’t wait honestly, I think we have got such a beautiful team yet again. The environment is unreal. The way we gel and all get on well is just incredible. Training’s are fun and we work hard, we are competitive, we trash-talk but we have fun doing it and I think that is such a great environment to be a part of. I just love the Flyers so much. What you said as well, professionalism, it is such a great very well ran club. Things just get done here and it is so nice to be in an environment where you feel completely professional.”

Later in the episode Rocci asked Blicavs “Best coach you have ever played under?” Blicavs responded “Honestly Cheryl is wicked. She has been so great, her coaching style suits me to a t where you can have a laugh and you don’t have to be serious all the time but I think we all respect her so much that we work hard for her and she just knows how to coach our group of chaotic women. I am also going to say David Herbert, I just love that man so much and he helped me so much with my outside shot too. Just a wicked human, had so much time for me and I probably worked with him for five years at least and I cannot thank him enough so he is up there as well.”

Throughout the 2020 WNBL season the Flyers had 10 players that played every game they were available for including eight players who averaged more than 16 minutes per game with starters Mitchell, Cole, O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Cambage all averaging between 23 and 29 minutes per game. A trio of experienced players in Rocci, Steph Blicavs and Jarry averaged between 16 and 21.5 minutes per game off the bench. Pizzey and Conti played all 15 games and averaged 7.5 and 6.6 minutes per game respectively.

In the Southside Flyers opening game of the season on 12 November against Bendigo Spirit at Townsville Stadium Blicavs scored 17 points, took an equal game-high 12 rebounds, made three assists and took an equal game-high two steals. In the Flyers 102-60 victory Blicavs made seven of 13 field Goal attempts at an accuracy of 53.8%, two of four three-pointers at 50% and was the only player for the game to register a double double.

At the start of the 2020 WNBL season the Flyers were the favourites to win the championship however in their first six games they had one loss to each of the teams considered to be their biggest rivals for the title, losing to the Melbourne Boomers 72-89 in their second game of the season and were defeated by the University of Canberra Capitals 72-95 in their first game of Round 3. In the loss to the Capitals on 23 November at Cairns Pop-Up Arena Blicavs scored 21 points – ranked second for the game behind Cambage with 26 points and took an equal team-high six rebounds. Blicavs shot the ball proficiently to make seven of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.6%, two of five three-pointers at 40% and all five free-throws.

Against Adelaide Lightning in Round 3 at Cairns Stadium Blicavs excelled on both ends of the floor, restricting eventual 2020 WNBL MVP Steph Talbot to six points whilst scoring 21 points herself. Blicavs made seven of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.3%, and was even more damaging from long-range to make four of five three-pointers, take five rebounds and have four assists in the 110-79 Flyers victory. In a post-game interview Southside head coach Cheryl Chambers commented on assigning Blicavs the defensive role on Talbot ”Steph’s been in such great form, we had to put some height on her and I thought Sara was really smart and kept her at bay.”

Against the Melbourne Boomers at Cairns Pop-Up Arena on 6 December Blicavs scored 18 points, took seven rebounds and had four assists in Southside’s 94-79 victory. Blicavs shot the ball very accurately to make seven of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 77.8% and three of four shots from behind the arc at 75%. 

In the Southside Flyers penultimate game of the regular season at Townsville Stadium they trailed the Sydney Uni Flames 63-71 with four minutes and 20 seconds to play in the game. In the remainder of the game Blicavs made three three-pointers including one from the corner to give the Flyers a 79-77 lead with 11 seconds left. The Southside Flyers defeated Sydney 81-77 however the victory came at a cost as with 48 seconds remaining Flyers captain O’Hea injured her knee and had to be substituted out of the game. Sara finished the game with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Due to her knee injury O’Hea was expected to miss the rest of the 2020 WNBL season, as happened late in the 2019/20 season Rocci was brought into the Flyers starting line-up in place of her injured captain.

Having won their last seven games of the regular season the Southside Flyers finished the 2020 WNBL season on top of the ladder with a record of 11 wins and two losses. The other three teams that made the finals all had a record of nine wins and four losses so the tie-breaker of head to head results between these teams was used which resulted in the Townsville Fire finishing second, University of Canberra Capitals third and Melbourne Boomers fourth. Due to the condensed season all finals were played at Townsville Stadium and were a single game rather than a three-game series.

After the conclusion of the regular season Blicavs was one of two Southside Flyers frontcourt players selected on an all WNBL-team, polling 16 votes to be selected on the All-WNBL second team. Southside Flyers centre Cambage was selected on the All-WNBL first team with 28 votes, led the league for scoring with 23.6 points per game and finished runner-up in the league’s MVP award behind Adelaide Lightning’s Steph Talbot.

In a major semi final on Wednesday December 16 the Southside Flyers played the Townsville Fire at Townsville Stadium. Blicavs opened the scoring with a three-pointer and the Flyers had a blistering opening term to lead 41-25 at quarter-time. Townsville reduced the margin to five points in the third quarter, however the Flyers were able to pull away again and won 106-93 to progress to the Grand Final for the second season in a row.

On Friday December 18 Townsville won a thrilling preliminary final against the Melbourne Boomers 65-62 to progress to the Grand Final against the Southside Flyers on Sunday 20 December. For the second season in a row Southside Flyers captain O’Hea was able to recover quicker than expected from a late season injury to play in the WNBL Grand Final, as with game one of the 2019/20 Grand Final O’Hea started on the bench and Rocci remained in the starting line-up. Southside led 48-46 at half-time and outscored Townsville 23-15 in the third quarter to set up a 99-82 victory and win the WNBL Championship. In Southside’s Grand Final victory Blicavs scored seven points, took a game-high eight rebounds and made three assists. Southside point guard Mitchell scored 31 points and made five assists to set game-highs in both categories and won the Rachel Sporn Medal for being the Grand Final MVP.

During the 2020 WNBL season Blicavs played all 15 games for the Southside Flyers and averaged 13.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocked shots and 28.7 minutes per game. Blicavs led Southside for minutes played per game, ranked second in rebounds, equal second for blocked shots, third in scoring behind Cambage and Cole and fifth for assists.

Blicavs made 1.7 three-pointers per game – ranked equal ninth in the league. Sara made 25 of 50 three pointers for the season at a career-best accuracy of 50% – ranked fifth in the WNBL among players who made at least five three-pointers for the season. Blicavs also set a new career best with a field goal accuracy of 47.8%.  Sara ranked equal ninth in the WNBL for rebounds per game, equal 10th for steals, 15th for scoring and 19th for minutes played per game.

Training camp with Phoenix Mercury

On 10 April 2020 Sara achieved a long-term goal by signing a training camp contract with WNBA club Phoenix Mercury, however the start date for the camp was uncertain due to social distancing measures being in place in response to the coraonavirus. In May 2020 Sara commented “It is hard because I am very excited to go and I feel very ready and confident to go, when you feel like that you are in a good mind-space and that is when you need to go and do these things. So to be ready to go and not actually know when it is going to happen is frustrating. We are just getting weekly up-dates, we do a weekly zoom call with Phoenix Mercury and the whole team and they are just updating us on everything.”

The Phoenix Mercury had several Australians at the club including head coach Sandy Brondello who is also the Australian Opals head coach, assistant coach Penny Taylor and forward Alanna Smith who has been an Australian Opals teammate of Blicavs including at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup where the Opals won the bronze medal. Sara commented “You could say it (Phoenix) is probably the closest one (WNBA club) to home which is nice. I get on well with Sandy and I respect her and obviously her being an Australian I know her husband Olaf well. It is quite nice, I have already been to Phoenix twice too so I am quite comfortable with the city, I know the city well and I know all the good food spots you could say. It does make it a little easier I guess if you are quite comfortable with the position that you are in. I like that they are quite family oriented. They are very Australian which is nice.”

Due to COVID-19 Phoenix Mercury were unable to hold a 2020 WNBA Training camp in April or May. On 26 May 2020 Blicavs was one of four players waived by Phoenix along with French point guard Olivia Epoupa and two players selected at the 2020 WNBA Draft.

In 2021 Blicavs was able to attend a Phoenix Mercury training camp. At a press conference in late April 2021 Blicavs commented “I was very disappointed last year but look that is life and that was the coronavirus year so I accepted it. I honestly think it was a great year to work on my own individual skills anyway and I think I am better for it. I have come up into this camp now feeling more confident in myself anyway so really rapt to be back. Really appreciate that I got this opportunity again and just really happy to be here.”

Later in the press conference Sara said “Just getting used to it, trying to find my role on the team and what Sandy and the other players want from me. It is a really great learning experience and it is a little bit daunting playing with Diana (Taurasi) and Skylar (Diggins-Smith) for the first time, getting the ball from them and they are expecting me to score, so that is pretty cool. The nerves are out of the way now, just adjusting to the way the WNBA plays. It’s super physical, it is physical in Australia.”

In a pre-season game for Phoenix Mercury at home against Seattle on 8 May 2021 Blicavs scored three points, took four rebounds, made one assist and had one steal in 19 minutes court-time. 

On 12 May 2021 Phoenix waived Blicavs, fellow Australian Tiana Mangakahia who is currently playing in the WNBL; for the Sydney Flamers and Ciera Johnson in a move that reduced the Mercury’s roster from 14 players to 11 players.

2021/22 WNBL season with Southside Flyers

The Southside Flyers announced on 10 June 2021 that Blicavs had signed with the club for the 2021/22 WNBL season. Blicavs told WNBL Media “Last season our challenge was to go one better after playing off the Grand Final in our first season in the WNBL. This season it is about defending our title. Winning the Championship was very special, and I am keen to enjoy that feeling again with my Flyers teammates. I love playing with the Flyers, the on court success is only part of why it is so enjoyable. The Flyers are a very professional club and have a fantastic culture. There is such a great feeling around the club and the environment created by the coaches and players ensures it is a lot of fun.”

“Continuing my career with the Flyers was such an easy decision, it is all about enjoying the game and working together to be the very best we can, individually and as a team. We have the best coaches and such a wonderful support staff, plus a fantastic supporter base. I am really looking forward to the new season.”11

Five of the eight Southside Flyers players that averaged more than 15 minutes court-time per game in 2020 returned in 2021/22. The Southside players in this category were Sara Blicavs, O’Hea, Cole, Aimie Rocci and Jarry who had more than 1,000 games WNBL experience between them.

Against Bendigo Spirit on 4 December at Dandenong Stadium in the opening game of the WNBL season the Southside Flyers starting line-up was Maddi Rocci and Cole in the back-court along with O’Hea, Blicavs and Abby Bishop in the front-court. Other members of the Flyers 10 player main roster were Aimie Rocci, Jarry, Kristy Wallace, Kate Gaze and Emilee Whittle-Harmon.  

Southside’s 2020 WNBL Championship banner was unveiled before their opening game of the season against Bendigo on 4 December at Dandenong Stadium.

The Southside Flyers 2020 WNBL Championship banner being unveiled on 4 December 2021 before their game at Dandenong Stadium against Bendigo Spirit

In Southside’s 94-83 Round 1 victory against Bendigo Blicavs scored a game-high 27 points and took an equal team-high 11 rebounds comprised of five defensive rebounds and six offensive rebounds to be one of three players to register a double double for the game along with teammate Bishop and Bendigo forward Anneli Maley. Blicavs shot the ball superbly to make 10 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58.8% and two of three three-pointers at 66.7%. 

Sara Blicavs being interviewed by Megan Hustwaite at half-time of Southside’s game against Bendigo Spirit on 4 December 2021 at Dandenong Stadium

In a road game against the Sydney Uni Flames at Qudos Bank Arena on 30 January Southside trailed Sydney 53-68 with six minutes and 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. For the rest of the quarter Blicavs scored eight points comprised of a two point jump shot and two three-pointers and took five rebounds to contribute to the Flyers going on a 20-2 run to make a miraculous comeback to defeat Sydney 73-70. Blicavs finished the game with 18 points at a field goal accuracy of 46.7%, made three of seven three-pointers at 42.9%, took 11 rebounds comprised of five offensive rebounds and six offensive boards and made two steals.

Against Bendigo Spirit on 2 March at My State Bank Arena in Hobart Blicavs scored a game-high 24 points, took a team-high eight rebounds and blocked a game-high three shots in a 70-78 loss. Blicavs made 11 of 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 52.4% and her only free-throw.

Before a training session on Tuesday 8 March Southside Flyers captain O’Hea announced her retirement. Blicavs missed Southside’s last two games of the season. In their last game of the season Southside defeated Adelaide Lightning 87-79 at the Lights and Community Sports Centre in O’Hea’s 299th and final WNBL game. 

Southside’s five starters for the opening game of the 2021/22 season all averaged more than 29.0 minutes and 10.0 points per game, however due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 the Flyers rarely had their entire starting five all playing in the same game. The Flyers finished the 2021/22 season in seventh place with five wins and 12 losses.

Throughout the 2021/22 WNBL season Blicavs missed games due to a back injury and COVID-19. Blicavs played 10 games for Southside and averaged a new WNBL career-high 16.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocked shots and 30.4 minutes per game for the Southside Flyers. Blicavs ranked second for Southside in scoring per game behind Cole, second in rebounds behind Bishop and third for blocked shots, three-pointers and minutes played. Blicavs made 13 of 39 three-pointers at an accuracy of 33.3%. Blicavs ranked eighth in the WNBL for scoring per game, equal 10th for blocked shots, 15th for rebounds, 17th for minutes played and equal 19th for three-pointers made.

Sara Blicavs playing for Southside Flyers against Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium on 4 December 2021

Representing the Australian Opals from 2020 to 2022

Blicavs was named in the initial 19 player squad for the Australian Opals Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in Malaysia during November 2019 but wasn’t named in the final 12 player team. Sara also narrowly missed out on being selected in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France which was named on 10 January 2020. Two days later Opals captain O’Hea broke her wrist in an overtime victory against the Boomers as mentioned above and Blicavs was brought into the Australian team as an injury replacement player for her Southside teammate.

The Opals were defeated on 6 February by host nation France in their opening game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 63-72. Australia won their next two games 100-74 against Puerto Rico and 86-72 against Brazil to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Sara played all three games for the Opals at the tournament and was ranked sixth for the Opals for rebounds and assists per game.

On 2 March 2020 Sara was included in a 19 player squad for the 2020 Olympic Games – being joined in the squad by three Southside Flyers team-mates – O’Hea, Mitchell and Cole, however the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were postponed due to the coranavirus and commenced on 23 July, 2021.

On 26 March 2020 it was announced that Sydney would host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball from 23 September to 1 October with 12 teams competing in the tournament. On the impact Sydney hosting the 2022 World Cup will have on women’s basketball in Australia Sara commented “It is going to be huge, I am so rapt that we are managing to host it. Basketball is such a popular sport, there are a lot of girls that play it but they never get the opportunity to see the best in action. You know they can watch the WNBL, but I mean to actually see the Opals, it is very rare that we ever have games in Australia and to actually host the World Cup, host the USA, a powerhouse, host all the European teams, you know there are girls in Australia who idolise these kind of players and get to see them in action. I think Australia will get behind it, I think we’ll actually get some attention in the media now about it and about the Opals which is nice. To have it on home soil, that is just amazing.”

The 12 player Australian Opals team for the Tokyo Olympic Games was announced by the Australian Olympic Committee in Sydney on 26 May 2021. Blicavs missed out on selection and was named as one of two Reserve players along with guard Shyla Heal.

The Opals had a very settled team with 10 members of the silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup in Spain being selected in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team. The two inclusions in the Tokyo Olympic Games team that didn’t play for Australia at the 2018 World Cup were Leilani Mitchell and Marianna Tolo who missed the 2018 World Cup due to a lower limb injury and knee injury respectively. Alex Bunton and Sami Whitcomb were the two players from the 2018 World Cup that weren’t selected in the Tokyo Olympic Games team. O’Hea continued in her role as Opals captain at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Opals had a training camp and some practice games in Las Vegas in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. On 16 July the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced that Liz Cambage had withdrawn from the Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team.

Appearing on the 9 May 2022 Episode of the ABC TV program Offsiders O’Hea was asked by host Kelli Underwood “This all started in the pre-Olympics game when you (the Opals) played Nigeria and it’s never really emerged what happened but I have had it confirmed from a few sources. Is it correct that you were playing Nigeria and Liz Cambage had her feathers ruffled and she turned to them and said ‘go back to your third world country’ and of course Ezi Magbegor is originally Nigerian (both of Ezi’s parents are Nigerian, Ezi was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia with her family when she was a young child) who’s now living in Australia and playing for your team and as a result there was a brawl that erupted and since then you haven’t spoken to her.” O’Hea responded “That is all 100% correct.”

On 20 July the AOC announced that Blicavs had been selected in the Opals 12 player team. On Sara’s addition to the Opals team head coach Sandy Brondello commented to “She’s very versatile –  she can shoot, she can rebound, she does a lot of great things She’s been in the [Opals] system for so long, she’s going to slip in really smoothly. We’re excited to get her with us and that she gets an opportunity to go to an Olympic Games. When you face some kind of adversity, when someone leaves the team, it means that you can replace them. It was really hard to pick that final 12, Sara really was so close to making this team – it’s nothing that she didn’t do, it was more about the balance of the team. To make that call the other day to say that she’s the player we want made me happy.”12

On being named in the Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team Blicavs posted on her Instagram page “Wow! What a roller coaster of emotions my last month has been. But, here is the silver linings, I’m a stronger person mentally and I’m now getting rewarded with my dream of playing at an Olympic Games.”13

Olympic Games – Steph Talbot, Katie Ebzery, Cayla George, Leilani Mitchell, Tessa Lavey and Mariana Tolo. Opals captain Jenna O’Hea played at her second Olympic Games, having represented the Opals in 2012. Four players that were members of the Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup in Ezi Magbegor, Alanna Smith, Bec Allen and Tess Madgen all made their Olympic Games debut in Tokyo. Blicavs was the only member of the Opals 12 player team making their major championship debut in the traditional five on five format of basketball.

Blicavs didn’t play in Australia’s first game of the Olympics, a 70-85 loss to Belgium. In Australia’s second game of the tournament on 30 July Blicavs made her Olympic Games debut. China defeated the Opals 76-74. In 11 minutes and 11 seconds court-time Blicavs scored three points, took four rebounds – ranked equal second for the Opals behind George with five, took a team-high two offensive rebounds and made one assist.

The Opals needed to win their third and final Group C game against Puerto Rico by at least 24 points to qualify for the quarter finals. After leading by a solitary point at half-time, 45 to 44 Australia dominated the second half 51-25 to just meet the target, defeating Puerto Rico by 27 points, 96-69 and advanced to the quarter finals where they played the United States of America.

After attending a Phoenix Mercury training camp earlier in 2021 Blicavs played against a few Phoenix players months later at the Olympic Games. The United States of America team included three Phoenix Mercury players – Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner. The United States of America outscored Australia in the opening quarter of their quarter final 26-12 and went on to defeat the Opals 55-79. Blicavs scored two points and took two rebounds in 10 minutes court-time.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Blicavs played three of Australia’s four games and averaged 2.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 9.0 minutes per game. Despite ranking 11th for minutes played per game Blicavs ranked third for the Opals in offensive rebounds behind Tolo and George.

Blicavs played all three games for the Opals at the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade, Serbia from February 10 to 13. The Opals recorded two victories and one loss, defeating Brazil 65-52 in their first game and Korea 79-61 in their third and final game. After leading host nation Serbia 56-53 at three quarter-time in their second game Serbia outscored the Opals 15-25 in the last quarter and the Opals were defeated 71-78. At the 2022 WCQT Blicavs averaged 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 12.9 minutes per game.

On 10 August 2022 Blicavs was named in Australia’s 12 player team for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October. Blicavs was one of seven members of the Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team that were members of the team for the 2022 World Cup along with George, Madgen, Allen, Talbot, Magbegor and Tolo. Two other members of the Opals 2022 World Cup team had represented Australia at a major championship previously, Sami Whitcomb at the 2018 World Cup and Lauren Jackson at eight consecutive major championships from 1998 to 2012. Three players made their major championship debut for the Opals in Sydney – Anneli Maley, Darcee Garbin and Kristy Wallace. Sandy Brondello was the Australian Opals Head Coach for a third consecutive major championship. Southside Flyers Head Coach Cheryl Chambers was an Assistant Coach of the Opals.

The Opals, ranked third in the world, were drawn in ‘the group of death’ with four of the other five nations in Group B also being ranked in the top 10 nations in the world. The six nations in Group B were Australia, Canada (ranked 4th in the world), France (6), Japan (8), Serbia (10) and Mali (37). All of the Australian Opals games were played at the Sydney SuperDome which is also known as Qudos Bank Arena. The World Cup was broadcast in Australia on television by ESPN.

Australia were hosting the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the second time in 2022, having previously hosted in 1994 when the tournament’s official name was 1994 FIBA World Championship for Women and was also known as OZ 94.

In Australia’s opening game of the 2022 FIBA World Cup against France on Thursday 22 September the Opals starting line-up was Whitcomb, Allen, Talbot, Magbegor and George.  After trailing France by five points at three-quarter the Opals were outscored in the final term 10-18 and lost to France 57-70.

The following night in the Opals second game against Mali Blicavs made six of ten field goals at an accuracy of 60% and scored 14 points – ranked equal second for the Opals behind Magbegor with 15 points. In Australia’s 118-58 victory Blicavs took a game-high eight rebounds comprised of an equal game-high three offensive rebounds and five defensive rebounds, made two assists and played a team-high 22 minutes and 14 seconds court-time.

The Australian Opals had a rest day on Saturday 24 September, however it was a big day for the Blicavs family with Sara’s brother Mark playing for Geelong against Sydney at the MCG in the AFL Grand Final. Geelong won the Grand Final by 81 points, Mark had 23 disposals and kicked a goal. Sara and her Australian Opals teammates watched the AFL Grand Final on television.

Sandy Brondello made a change to the Opals starting line-up for their third game against Serbia with Tolo starting and Magbegor commencing the game on the bench. The Opals defeated Serbia 69-54, however the win came at a cost with starter Allen suffering an injury to her ribs in the last quarter which forced her to miss the Opals final two Group B games. During the group phase Allen was Australia’s leading scorer with 13.3 points per game.

For Australia’s fourth group game against Canada Blicavs was brought into the Opals starting line-up to replace the injured Allen. In the last four minutes of the first half the Opals went on a phenomenal 19-0 run to lead Canada 38-33 at half-time. Australia defeated Canada 75-72 to advance to the quarter finals.

After losing to France in their opening game Australia had three consecutive wins to have the same win-loss record as Canada and France with one more day of group play remaining on Tuesday 27 September. If Australia, Canada and France all finished Group B tied on four wins and one loss, the points difference in the head to head games between these three nations would determine their positions, resulting in Canada finishing first, France second and Australia third.

In the first Group B game on Tuesday 27 September Canada defeated Mali 88-65 to secure a top two finish in the group. Australia got the result they wanted in the second Group B game at the Sydney SuperDome with Serbia defeating France 68-62. If Australia defeated Japan in their final Group B game they would finish on top of Group A but if they lost to Japan they would finish third resulting in a quarter final game against one of the top two teams from Group A, the undefeated USA or China who’s only loss was to USA. Belgium finished third in Group A with three wins followed by Puerto Rico in fourth place with two wins. Korea with one win and Bosnia and Herzegovina with no wins were both eliminated from the competition at the end of the group phase.

In the Oplas final Group B game against Japan Magbegor returned to the Australian starting line-up and George started on the bench with the Opals wanting to utilise Magbegor’s athleticism. Australia led Japan by two points at half-time, 36-34. The Opals outscored Japan 20-9 in the third quarter to set up a 71-54 victory.

Australia had four wins and loss to finish on top of Group B ahead of Canada who had the same win-loss record. The Opals won the tie-breaker due to defeating Canada by three points in the head-to-head match between the two nations. Serbia and France were third and fourth with three wins ahead of Japan with one win and Mali with no wins. The top four teams in each Group advanced to the finals.

After playing five games in six days all eight nations remaining in the tournament had a rest day on Wednesday 28 September before playing their quarter final on Thursday 29 September. Australia’s quarter-final was against Belgium in the fourth and final game of the day.

Belgian power forward Emma Messeman suffered a calf injury in her nation’s fourth group game which ended her tournament. Messeman was selected in the All-Star five at the 2018 World Cup and scored 32 points in Belgium’s victory against Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. In their quarter final at the 2022 World Cup Australia led Belgium 26-16 at quarter time and went on to win 86-69 to progress to the semi finals.

In an interview with ESPN following Australia’s victory against Belgium Blicavs commented on the crowds at the World Cup saying “Our crowd has been amazing so far, the atmosphere in here is just unreal, by far the best tournament I have ever played in.” Later in the interview Sara spoke about the week for the Blicavs family, saying “Mum joined us a couple of days ago and she was exhausted she had been hanging out with Mark and doing all the celebrations as well so it is massive for our family. Kris is in Egypt right now playing in the 3 on 3 World street basketball competition too so it’s a lot. Our group chat is going off daily. I think it is nice, we feed off each other and we vibe off each other and it is something that I am really proud of, both of them and their achievements, I just want to do them proud.”  

Early in their quarter final against Belgium Blicavs set the tone for the Opals. In the first six minutes of the game Blicavs scored six points comprised of three lay-ups and took three defensive rebounds. When Blicavs was substituted out with three minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter Australia led Belgium 17-8. The Opals went on to win 86-69 to progress to the semi finals. Blicavs made six of 10 field goals at an accuracy of 60%, scored 12 points and took an equal game-high nine rebounds along with teammate George.

Against Canada in the bronze medal game Blicavs was the Opals third highest scorer with 12 points and took four rebounds in Australia’s 95-65 win. On the day of the Opals bronze medal game against Canada Jackson announced that it would be her last game representing the Australian Opals. During the bronze medal game against Canada Jackson put on an exhibition to score a phenomenal game-high 30 points at an accuracy of 68.8% from the field in 21 minutes court-time to have a fairytale finish to her international career. Blicavs played all eight games at the 2022 FIBA World Cup for Australia and averaged 5.0 points, 3.6 rebounds – ranked fifth for the Opals and 17.1 minutes per game.

In a post-game interview with ESPN after Australia’s victory in the bronze medal game against Canada Blicavs commented “Rose gold is so pretty so I couldn’t be happier for the girls, so excited, this is my first ever big win as well so to do it in Australia is unreal, so trying not to get teary, but yeah super happy.”

On winning a World Cup medal with the Opals at the 2022 World Cup after being cut from Phoenix Mercury’s 2021 WNBA Training Camp and missing out on selection in Australia’s 12 player team for the Tokyo Olympics but then receiving a late call-up Blicavs commented “That hurt a lot but I didn’t lose hope and I didn’t give up on basketball. I think getting cut from both those made me realise that there is more to life and it has made me a happier more comfortable, calm basketball player, so just really enjoying myself and I just wanted to help the team as much as I could tonight especially, I just wanted to win so badly and I just didn’t want to give up. I knew the girls were tired and I was like look, I have a bit more gas left in my tank compared to theirs so I’ll just try my best.”

ESPN commentator and Australian Opals great Michele Timms said “Hey Sara we know you have never seen a bad shot in your life and you love to shoot the ball, however having said that, your defense for me mate, I love great defensive players and your d tonight was world class.” Blicavs responded “Thank you, that’s a massive complement, thank you. I have really been priding myself on my d lately. I honestly didn’t think it was that bad but old mate Jenni Screen just came up to me and said ‘Where did you learn how to defend?” I was like ‘OK’. Its something again that I know I could stay out on the floor with, just provide good defense and let the rest come.” ESPN host Neroli Meadows asked “Is it true that part of becoming such a good defensive player was actually dating back to COVID where big brother Mark was trying to prove that he can still play basketball in those one on one training sessions up against you.” Blicavs replied “Absolutely, I was playing both Kris and Mark in one on one during the COVID years so that helped me a lot but I think it is just the want and desire and I think I realise I need to back myself and trust myself to get up on the guards a little bit more and now I feel like I can do it so watch out WNBL I’m coming.”     

NBL1 with Geelong Supercats in 2021 and 2022

Due to social restrictions in place to combat COVID-19 it was an interrupted NBL1 South season and only about half of it was completely before the season was cancelled. Sara played for the Geelong Supercats and one of three players to average more than 14.0 points per game along with her sister- in-law Steph (19.3 points per game) and Aimie Rocci (14.1 points per game). Sara played five games for the Supercats in 2021 and averaged 25.6 points per game, 10.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game. 

On 4 June 2022 Blicavs scored 33 points and took 18 rebounds in a Geelong Supercats home game at Geelong Arena against Ballarat Miners. During the 2022 NBL1 South season Blicavs played 18 games for the Geelong Supercats, averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. In 2022 Blicavs ranked fifth in NBL1 South for scoring per game and seventh for rebounds. 

2022/23 WNBL season with Southside Flyers

The Southside Flyers announced on 18 August 2022 that Blicavs had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Southside head coach Cheryl Chambers told “Sara is a very important part of our team and the way she continues to build her game to an even higher level shows her professionalism. She can consistently knock the 3, shoots the pull up and can also get to the rack. She continues to raise the bar for our team and helps build the Flyers culture on and off the court. She is a great person around the team and continues to be a real fan favourite.”14

In July 2022 the Southside Flyers announced that they were moving and that the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South would be their home court for the 2022/23 WNBL season. During the 2019/20 and 2021/22 seasons Southside had played their home games at Dandenong Stadium. Southside Flyers Chairman Gerry Ryan told WNBL Media “This is an important season for the Flyers, we want to engage more with basketball fans and the community, and the State Basketball Centre, the home of basketball, will provide the opportunity to grow support for the team and women’s basketball. While we will continue to work with the City of Greater Dandenong, engaging with local communities and junior basketball clubs across the south-eastern region of Melbourne is important to promote the team, the game, and women’s sport. Through our players we want to encourage more females to be involved in sport. We are confident this work in the community will increase interest in our WNBL games, and playing at the State Basketball Centre, with the larger capacity, will enable more people to attend our games and enjoy watching elite women’s sport.”15

Five members of the Southside Flyers 2021/22 core rotation of 10 players that each averaged more than 12 minutes per game suited up for the club again during the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season – Blicavs, Cole and Bishop along with Aimie and Maddy Rocci. O’Hea and Jarry both retired, and three players are playing for rival WNBL clubs –  Wallace (Melbourne Boomers), Whittle-Harmon (UC Capitals) and Gaze (Townsville Fire).

During a WNBL Rapid Fire interview published on the league’s Facebook page on 13 January Blicavs was asked “Who is the coaches favourite?” Blicavs responded “Sara Blicavs (whilst laughing), absolutely Cheryl’s favourite and I’ll be more than happy to say that.” For the question “Who is your hero?” Sara responded “Probably my two older brothers, and I wont go into detail because I don’t want to feed their egos.”

In Southside’s opening game of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season against Adelaide Lightning at the State Basketball Centre on 5 November 2022 Blicavs was a starter in the front-court with American import Kayla Thornton and 2022 Opals World Cup teammate Lauren Jackson. Maddy Rocci and Cole started in the Flyers backcourt. Other members of the Flyers 10 player main roster at the start of the season were Bishop, Aimie Rocci, Carly Ernst and two 18 year-olds, guard Dallas Loughridge and forward Nyadiew Puoch. Loughridge injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a pre-season game and will miss the entire season. Aimie Rocci was appointed Southside’s captain for the 2022/23 season.

Sara Blicavs playing for Southside Flyers against Sydney Flames at the State Basketball Centre on 1 December 2022

Early in the 2022/23 season point guard Monique Conti joined the Flyers. Conti became the fourth member of the Southside Flyers 2022/23 roster that had played in the club’s 2020 WNBL championship, joining Blicavs, Cole and Aimie Rocci in this category.


On 5 November 2022 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.


On 23 December Southside played a Round 7 road game at Red Energy Arena against Bendigo Spirit who had won their first seven games of the season and were on top of the ladder. Southside had recorded five wins and three losses. Southside played phenomenal basketball to defeat Bendigo 96-67. In the Flyers victory Blicavs scored 14 points, took seven rebounds, made an equal game-high five assists and an equal team-high two steals. Blicavs made six of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 54.5% and two of three three-pointers at 66.7%.

Blicavs reached 250 WNBL games in late December 2022, 13 years after making her debut in the league with the AIS. Blicavs achievement of reaching 250 WNBL games was celebrated in a  Southside Flyers Round 8 home game against the University of Canberra Capital at the State Basketball Centre on 28 December.

Sara Blicavs shooting a jumpshot for Southside Flyers against UC Capitals at the State Basketball Centre on 28 December 2022

In reaching 250 games Sara received automatic WNBL Life Membership, joining her sister-in-law Steph in this select group. Steph played 317 games and received WNBL life membership in 2017/18. Sara and Steph were teammates in the WNBL for five seasons comprised of four seasons at the Dandenong Rangers (2012/13 and 2015/16 to 2017/18) along with the 2020 championship winning hub season with the Southside Flyers.

The WNBL website includes a full list of WNBL life members, a link to this list is below:

WNBL Life Members | WNBL

Blicavs was the fifth 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 teammate Abby Bishop. In late January 2023 Carley Ernst became the third current Southside Flyers frontcourt player to join the WNBL 250 game club. Blicavs and Ernst were the 76th and 77th people respectively to receive WNBL Life Membership.

WNBL Life members are mainly comprised of players but also include, coaches, referees and administrators. The WNBL commenced more than 40 years ago in 1981 which means that on average just under 2.0 people per year have received WNBL Life Membership which highlights how significant this achievement is.

During The WNBL Show – EP09 published on 28 December 2022 Megan Hustwaite asked Blicavs “Now 250 games its amazing, couple of championships in there, some great highs, obviously the low being the injury. Is it something you can reflect on a little bit now, I know it is something you would reflect on after you stop playing but can you sort of saviour the moment now?” Blicavs responded “Honestly and this is going to be super funny but it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. To me it is not that important and I think I see it as I have still got so many games left, touch wood, hopefully and it is something that I just want to continue to do. For me it is like yeah, 250 is good but I am only 29, hopefully I am still playing by 34, 35 so I might even make it to Kelly Wilson’s little stage right now, what is she at 400 something, (Hustwaite replies 419), nah I can’t be bothered, that is just way too far.”

Sara Blicavs making a free-throw for Southside Flyers game against Melbourne Boomers on 4 January 2023 at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville

In Southside’s first 10 games of the 2022/23 season Blicavs had been extremely consistent, having a highest score of 16 points in a game and a lowest score of nine points in a game. In Southside’s 11th game of the season against the Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 4 January Blicavs set a new season scoring high by half-time, amassing 21 points in a sublime first half. In a phenomenal shooting exhibition Blicavs finished the game with a career-high and league wide season-high 41 points. Throughout the game Blicavs made 15 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 88.2%, a rate considered very accurate for free-throw shooting, let alone shooting from the field and having defenders to contend with. Sara made all six three-pointers and five free-throws in Southside’s 88-70 victory. Blicavs took five rebounds, made two assists, blocked an equal game-high two shots, was named the WNBL’s Round 9 Player of the Week and selected in the league’s Team of the Week.

In the fourth quarter of Southside Flyers game against Melbourne Boomers on 4 January 2023 at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville Blicavs received the ball at the top of the three point line (above) then drove to the basket and made a lay-up to increase her tally to 41 points (below)

In the fourth quarter of Southside’s Round 12 road game against Adelaide on 28 January at Adelaide Arena Blicavs reached 3,000 points in her WNBL career. Blicavs started the game on 2,987 points and with four minutes and four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter made two free-throws to score her 12th and 13th points of the game to reach the milestone of 3,000 career points in the WNBL. The made free-throws by Blicavs put Southside in front 67-65. Blicavs made one more field goal, a lay-up in the Flyers 73-72 victory against Adelaide. Blicavs finished the game with 15 points, made five of eight field goals at an accuracy of 62.5%, made all five free-throws and took five rebounds. Blicavs became the seventh player on a 2022/23 roster to reach 3,000 WNBL points in their career, joining Southside teammates Abby Bishop and Lauren Jackson along with Melbourne Boomers duo  Cayla George and Tess Madgen and Bendigo Spirit duo Kelsey Griffin and Kelly Wilson.

In Round 13 the Southside Flyers hosted the Sydney Flames in the first ever WNBL game played at John Cain Arena and had a crowd of 7,681, breaking the record for the largest crowd at a WNBL game. Lauren Jackson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the first minute of the 67-68 loss to  Sydney.

It is not uncommon for WNBL players to regularly change clubs both in the WNBL and at state league level. Blicavs has been an exception and has not changed WNBL clubs in the past eight seasons, having played four seasons in a row for the Dandenong Rangers from 2015/16 to 2018/19. After the Rangers license was transferred from the Dandenong Basketball Association to Gerry Ryan Ryan in July 2019 the club was rebranded as the Southside Flyers. From 2019/20 to 2022/23 Blicavs has played four consecutive seasons for the Southside Flyers. At state league the only club Blicavs has represented since 2013 is the Geelong Supercats in the SEABL and NBL1 South.

On 11 February 2023 Bendigo Spirit hosted the Southside Flyers in Geelong, providing Sara with an opportunity to pay a WNBL game on the Geelong Supercats home court, Geelong Arena. Southside consolidated their position in the top four with a 75-69 victory with Blicavs scoring 13 points and taking an equal team-high seven rebounds.

During the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Blicavs has played all 18 games for Southside and is averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocked shots and 29.8 minutes per game. Blicavs leads the Flyers for minutes played per game, ranks second for rebounds behind Thornton, second for steals, equal third for three-pointers made and fourth for points. Among players that have played at least five games as at 13 February Blicavs ranks equal 13th in the WNBL for steals per game, equal 16th for blocked shots, 17th  for rebounds per game, 22nd for minutes played, equal 22nd for points and equal 25th with 1.1 three-pointers made per game.

Sara Blicavs playing defense for Southside Flyers against Townsville Fire forward Tianna Hawkins at the State Basketball Centre on 10 December 2022

Blicavs is one of four Southside Flyers averaging more than 27 minutes per game along with Thornton, Maddy Rocci and Cole. Six players have averaged between 11 and 22 minutes per game, Jackson, Bishop, Aimie Rocci, Pouch, Conti and Ernst. Jackson will miss the rest of the season due to an achilles injury and Southside captain Aimie Rocci hasn’t played since 10 December due to a back injury but is hoping to return to the Flyers line-up for the finals.

After her phenomenal 41 point performance against the Melbourne Boomers Blicavs was achieving 50/40/90 shooting splits for the season – an accuracy of at least 50% for field goals, at least 40% for three-pointers and at least 90% for free-throws. Sara’s shooting in all three categories has dropped slightly below these high three thresholds. Sara has made 19 of 53 three-pointers at an accuracy of 35.8%. Blicavs has made 46 of 52 free-throws at an accuracy of 88.5%. Blicavs ranks 10th in the league for free-throws made per game and sixth in the league for free-throw accuracy among players that have attempted at least 10 free-throws. Among players that have attempted at least 10 field goals for the season Blicavs’ field goal accuracy of 48.6% is a new career-high ranks 16th in the league for the 2022/23 season.

Sara Blicavs shooting a jumpshot for Southside Flyers against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 10 December 2022

After their victory against Bendigo in the opening game of Round 14 at Geelong Arena Southside Flyers were third on the ladder with a record of 13 wins and five losses, just behind the Melbourne Boomers and Townsville Fire who each have a record of 12 wins and four losses. Five teams are in contention for the four finals spots. Bendigo are fourth with 11 wins and seven losses followed by Perth in fifth place with nine wins and seven losses.

Southside’s last three games of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL regular season are all at the State Basketball Centre and are all against teams in the top five on the ladder. Southside play Perth on Sunday 19 February, Melbourne on 22 February and Townsville on 4 March. If teams are tied on the same number of wins and losses at the end of the season the season splits between the tied teams are used as a tie-breaker to determine which team finishes higher. The Flyers have won the season series against Bendigo three games to nil. Regardless of the result of the third game in the season series Southside have lost the series to Townsville as they trail 0-2 and have won the series against Melbourne as they are leading 2-0. Whoever wins the game between Southside and Perth on 19 February will win the series as it is currently locked at one game apiece.  

Southside Flyers huddle with team and staff members as well as some family after defeating Bendigo Spirit at at the State Basketball Centre on 6 January 2023

Among players who are playing in the WNBL during the 2022/23 season Blicavs ranks fifth for most games played in their career, sixth for most career rebounds – just three rebounds behind Kelly Wilson and seventh for career points.

Moving into the top 20 on the WNBL’s All-Time list for leading rebounder, leading scorer and most game played are all achievable for Blicvas in the next two or three seasons. Blicavs has taken 1,425 rebounds in her career, Jo Hill currently ranks 20th on the WNBL’s All-Time list with 1,596 rebounds. Blicavs is on track to reach 1,500 rebounds in the 2023/24 WNBL season and move into the top 20 on the WNBL’s All-Time list the following season.   


Since December 2021 articles have been published on Milestones and Misses to celebrate the following WNBL games milestones:

Carley Ernst 250 WNBL games

Kiera Rowe 100 WNBL games

Chelsea Brook 100 WNBL games

Sami Whitcomb 100 WNBL games

Abbey Wehrung 150 WNBL games

Maddy Rocci 100 WNBL games

Kelly Wilson 400 WNBL games

Steph Talbot 150 WNBL games

Bec Cole 200 WNBL games

Aimie Rocci 200 WNBL games

Abby Bishop 250 WNBL games

Below is a link to the WNBL milestone games category of Milestones and Misses as well as the home page:



During her 14 season WNBL career to 13 February 2023 Sara Blicavs has played 259 WNBL games and averaged 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Among players who are playing in the WNBL during the 2022/23 season Blicavs ranks fifth for most games played in their career, sixth for most career rebounds – just three rebounds behind Kelly Wilson and seventh for career points.

In May 2020 Milestones and Misses asked Blicavs ‘What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete so far in your career?’ Sara responded “Probably coming back from my knee to be honest and coming back to where I was at if not better. To actually come out of that on a positive note I was really rapt in myself because I know how difficult it was for me and people who have done their ACL understand completely. Other than that I don’t have one to date. I am probably not happy with anything I have done yet because I am my harshest critic. I want to go out there and be as good as I can be, I feel as though I am getting there.”

By May 2020 Blicavs had represented the Australian Opals at several tournaments, had finished in the top 10 of the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player of the Year Award twice with the Jayco Rangers in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and had played in a WNBL Championship with Bendigo Spirit in 2014/15.

When Blicavs suffered her knee injury on 10 November 2017 playing for the Dandenong Rangers she saw the lengthy rehabilitation process as an opportunity to work on different parts of her game and return a better, more rounded player. Blicavs missed 13 months of basketball due to her right knee injury and it took approximately another 12 months before Sara felt she was back to normal.

During the 2020 WNBL hub season Blicavs made 25 of 50 three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%, received greater recognition for her defense, was a member of Southside’s WNBL Championship winning team and was selected in the All-WNBL Second Team.

In 2021/22 Blicavs set a new WNBL career-high averaging 16.0 points per game and in each of the past three seasons including the current 2022/23 season has had a field goal accuracy of above 45%. In seven of her past eight WNBL seasons from 2015/16 onwards Blicavs has averaged more than 13.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, the only exception is 2018/19 when she played limited minutes returning from her knee injury.

At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Sydney Blicavs was an integral member of the bronze medal winning Opals team, starting the last five games of the tournament, ranking fifth for Australia in rebounds and impressing with her defense.

In the past two months playing for the Southside Flyers Sara Blicavs has added to her list of accomplishments by reaching 250 WNBL games which earns her WNBL Life Membership, scoring 41 points in a game and reaching 3,000 career points. Congratulations Sara on your WNBL career to date and everything that you have accomplished.

Article and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777













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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:


Carley Ernst

Kiera Rowe

Chelsea Brook

Sami Whitcomb

Abbey Wehrung

Penny Taylor

Rachel Jarry

Steph Reid

Kristy Wallace

Anneli Maley

Lindsay Allen

Jade Melbourne

Maddison Rocci

Cayla George

Kelly Wilson

Steph Talbot

Bec Cole

Aimie Rocci

Abby Bishop

Tessa Lavey

Ezi Magbegor

Zitina Aokuso

Leilani Mitchell

Maddie Garrick

Sara Blicavs


Nathan Sobey


Ashleigh Riddell

Hayley Miller

Darcy Vescio

Tessa Lavey

Georgia Patrikios

Alyce Parker

Tyla Hanks

Tyanna Smith

Tarni White

Caitlin Greiser


Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin

Nicky Winmar

Sam Walsh

Jack Steele

Luke Jackson

Harry McKay

Seb Ross

Jayden Short

Clayton Oliver

Lenny Hayes

Tim Membrey

Rowan Marshall

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