WNBL Team Watch: Sydney Uni Flames
WITH the 2021 WNBL season getting closer by the day, teams will begin to ramp up their preparation ahead of the race for the championship. The Sydney Uni Flames found themselves in an undesirable position at the conclusion of WNBL20. They were the best of the non-finalists but still four wins outside of making the postseason themselves. While it may sound like they would be displeased with their season overall, they were in fact one of the competition’s biggest improvers.
The Flames made some impressive moves in free agency and found a squad that played very well throughout the regular season. They will be confident heading into the upcoming season, and if they can replicate their improvement this year, they will be a strong chance to be in the top four come season’s end.
One of their acquisitions of last year’s free agency period, former Lynx guard Lauren Mansfield, looks set to play a big role once again this season. She averaged 14 points and 4.5 assists per game in the 2020 season (leading her side in both categories) and earning a contract extension. She proved to be one of the league’s strongest list additions, and the Flames will be looking to her to lead the side again.
Another player who was synonymous with her side’s improvement was 22-year-old Annelli Maley, who came to the side from the Southside Flyers. Maley led the league in rebounds (12.9 per game) and showed her ability to score with nearly eight points per game too. She has staked her claim as one of the league’s young stars.
The side brought back Kiera Rowe, but made some strong additions to their list such as WNBA young guns Leaonna Odom and Stephanie Watts and acquired former Townsville Flyer development player Keely Froling in a big signing. Froling averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds per game last season, and will look to help this side push for a finals berth.
The Flames also made some front office changes, parting ways with head coach Katrina Hibbert and bringing Shane Heal as her replacement. Heal is a well-known basketball affiliate, given his extensive playing and coaching career, and brings a wealth of experience and success to the club. In 2014, Heal coached Wellington to a NZNBL championship, and he is expected to bring the same winning mentality to the Flames.
Following a season of vast improvement, the Flames look to climb the ladder yet again. This marks their second year of eye-catching offseason moves and with veteran coach Heal taking the helm, they are in prime position to begin their rise.
Image Credit: Sydney Uni Flames via Facebook