17/04/2024

Sara Blicavs playing for the Opals. (Photo: NBL1)

Fresh off winning bronze, or “rose gold” with the Opals in Sydney, Sara Blicavs is aiming to be a big part of helping the Southside Flyers return to greatness.

After winning the championship in 2020, the club from Melbourne’s south-east dropped off last season, ultimately finishing seventh.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Blicavs signalled the intent of the club in the upcoming WNBL season.

“[Last year] is something we don’t want to go back on,” she said.

“Getting second last wasn’t great for us, especially because we got a taste of what it was [like] winning the year before.

“We definitely want to come back and prove ourselves to everyone that we’ve still got it.”

With the squad they’ve assembled, the Flyers have given themselves every chance of doing just that.

They’ve retained a number of quality players including Blicavs, Bec Cole, Abby Bishop, and sisters-in-law Aimie and Maddy Rocci, while also bringing in exciting new recruits.

Kayla Thornton is one of the highest quality imports in the league this season, and is the perfect addition to the Flyers’ forward group.

She’s proven herself as a brilliant three-point shooter with the Dallas Wings in the WNBA, and should be a welcome addition to stretch the floor.

But there’s none bigger than Lauren Jackson.

One of the all-time greats of not only Australian basketball, but Australian sport, she’s back for one last lap in the WNBL.

“It’s huge, she’s going to bring in crowds,” Blicavs said.

“Everyone is in awe of her, having her around and having that calibre of an athlete in this league. She’s not just the GOAT of Australian basketball, she’s the GOAT of world basketball.

“I’m super lucky with the Australian side to have already played with [Jackson] and got the rhythm with her. That’s the tough part, is trying to get used to how someone of her calibre can play.

“I’m super rapt that she chose the Flyers. She scored 30 points in the [Opals’] rose gold game against Canada, so clearly she is in fine form right now.”

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There’s leadership to be found all over the floor, but the focal point of that will be newly elected captain, Aimie Rocci.

After notching up her 200th game last season, she makes the step up into the role in what could be a pivotal season for the Flyers.

They’ve just come off the retirement of Jenna O’Hea and Rachel Jarry, two stalwarts of Australian basketball, while point guard Kristy Wallace has left for cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers.

It will be a point of stability for a team that’s gone through a number of changes since their championship run.

“I’m rapt. I think [Rocci] is the best leader, and I’m so proud of her for getting that job,” Blicavs said.

“She’s my best friend as well so I’m not being biased, but besides leading by example, she’s a very smart player.

“She says all the right things, and she’s that really nice calming presence… that you feel comfortable to go to. I think she’s going to be great for us, I’m really proud of her for taking the job.”

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The season comes at an interesting time in the basketball calendar this time around. Many Opals and other internationals have only just wrapped up the World Cup, which concluded on October 1.

While some had time away to recuperate, others barely had time to blink before jumping into WNBL training.

Blicavs is one of those players, jumping straight back into more basketball in a packed schedule. Despite that, she’s up for the challenge.

“I managed to get a week off… I thought Cheryl [Chambers], who was the assistant coach of the Australian team would give me more, but I’ll take it.

“But it was nice. I still got excited to come back, which was good. I think it was just a bit fatiguing after Worlds.

“We’re so hyperactive for a whole month, then all of a sudden to come and sit on the couch, you can’t do that. I definitely crashed and burned, [but] we’re good, we have the energy back.”

The Southside Flyers host the Adelaide Lightning at the State Basketball Centre for their first game of the 2022/23 WNBL season, on Saturday, November 5.

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