Flames looking for three-peat as SBL tips off


The Flames Women celebrate their championship last year. Picture: Darren Speedie/Vision Inspired Photography
The Flames Women celebrate their championship last year. Picture: Darren Speedie/Vision Inspired Photography

SUCCESS is the goal again for the Rockingham Flames Women’s team, and it will be in search of a third consecutive championship when the State Basketball League (SBL) tips off this weekend.

After winning the club’s maiden championship in 2014, the Women’s team, led by Perth Lynx assistant coach Ryan Petrik, repeated the feat again last season and head into the new season as the hunted.

The Flames face last season’s grand final opponent Willetton Tigers in their season opener at Willetton Basketball Stadium at 6pm on Saturday night.

However, they will be without integral championship components Sami Whitcomb, Darcee Garbin, Jacinta Bourne and Louella Tomlinson who will all miss the opening round due to their WNBL commitments.

Not one to rest on his laurels, coach Petrik has worked hard in the off-season to snare high quality recruits Ash Sidebottom from Mandurah Magic, Amanda Pether from Lakeside Lightning and former Willetton junior Ella Kennedy.

The new recruits join three-time MVP Whitcomb, Garbin, who is coming off a fantastic season with Townsville Fire in the WNBL, and local products Jacinta and Talisia Bourne, Tarsha Fletcher and Ari Hetherington to form a formidable line-up.

The Flames Men’s team will again look to develop young players coming through the ranks in an effort to get back to the SBL finals in 2016.

After reaching the semi-finals in 2015, the team hope to go one better this season with American brothers Cooper and Taylor Land returning to pull on Flames colours this year.

New recruit Nebs Franich brings athleticism to the team at small forward, while former Flames junior Chudier Pal returns after spending the past four years in the US Collegiate Basketball System at University of North Carolina – Asheville.

Local products Ryan Godfrey, Luke Roberts and Justin and Kyle Beard all return for the team also and will look to push the team into top four contention.

The men also begin their season at Willetton, an early title favourite, following the women’s game with tip off at 8pm.

Men’s head coach Mark Utley said his side were looking forward to the season despite losing a lot of experienced heads over the off-season.

“We have gained athleticism and talented youthful endeavour,” he said.

“Our guys are fitter than ever and we are looking forward to a new beginning. Cooper Land has basically mirrored the off-season that he had before his MVP year and we are looking for him to be refreshed and ready to go for a good season”

The Flames first home games will be on Easter Monday, March 28 against East Perth Eagles.