WNBL team wrap: Sydney Flames

THE WNBL has wrapped for another year, and there was plenty of excitement across the course of the 2023 season.

It was a different looking landscape as the campaign rolled on, with contenders rising and falling in a tense finish to the home and away fixture. Ultimately, the strongest side in the Townsville Fire claimed the grand prize, but other teams showed plenty of promise and delivered highlights of their own.

As we did with the NBL over the past few weeks, Rookie Me Central will be taking a look at how each side fared in the 2022/23 season, with mixed results across the eight teams.

It was a tumultuous campaign for the Sydney Flames, who dealt with some unfortunate off-court issues that proved to be a constant distraction.

The team parted ways with head coach Shane Heal and his daughter and star player Shyla Heal headed north to join the Fire. Both moves happened mid-season and came with a reasonable amount of consequences.

Shelly Gorman replaced Heal at the helm, and the Flames played at a much higher level. Their style of play completely changed and began to get some wins on the board.

Although it was a case of too little, too late given the poor play seen in the first half of the fixture, Sydney showed an immense amount of potential to close out the season.

Sydney Flames

2022/23 record – six wins, 15 losses

The Flames were forced to deal with an off-court saga that changed the look and dynamic of the club, but appeared to have manoeuvred the issue well, and looked a different outfit to close out the season.

MVP – Keely Froling

Froling was a powerful presence for the Flames across the entire season, maintaining her consistency across the rockiest of periods. She formed a damaging duo in the back half of the fixture with Tiana Mangakahia, and the pair were the spark that turned things around for Sydney. Froling appears to improve on a yearly basis, and has firmly established herself as one of the best bigs in the country. The 27-year-old posted averages of 18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, in yet another eye-catching campaign for the Townsville native.

Next season

The Flames will be looking at their performance in the second half of the fixture as the blueprint for the 2023/24 season. Under Gorman, the Flames played inspired basketball, and will be eager to replicate that by the time Round 1 arrives.

Their offence will need to improve, as the Flames delivered the least amount of points per game, so the team will be likely looking to add a number-one scoring option in the coming months, while Mangakahia may take another step forward after a promising first season in the WNBL. However, a one-point win over the Flyers on the road showed the Flames had the tools to take it up to anyone, so a winning formula is not far away, and could come in their next campaign.

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