Former Townsville Fire star Lauren Nicholson celebrates the championship win (Picture: WNBL, Design by Madeline Irwin)

Coming into the league as a 17-year-old, WNBL star Lauren Nicholson completes her evolution from young player to league veteran, signing with her original team, the Sydney Flames.

Signing with the Sydney Flames in 2009, Lauren Nicholson couldn’t have predicted that her career would be so extensive and jam-packed. After over a decade in the league, including time at the Adelaide Lightning and the Townsville Fire and two championships to her name, the Australian Opal signs with her home team for the next three WNBL seasons.

After signing with the Flames, Lauren Nicholson spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about her decision to sign on, the roster that Sydney are building and moving on from Townsville.

“It kind of has always been the plan to come back to Sydney at some point,” Nicholson told The Inner Sanctum.

“I loved my time in Adelaide and Townsville but Sydney will always be home and I’m really excited that I’m back and it’s very special that I can call this home now for the next three seasons.”

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After about seven seasons away from the Flames, Nicholson opened up on how she has grown as a basketballer and a person in her time between stints at Sydney.

“Well the first time I played for the Flames was when I was 17-years-old, I was just a baby,” she said.

“[I played for them] again when I was 23 and I think that when I first came back from college and joined the Flames, I was still trying to figure it out and figure out if basketball was what I wanted to do full-time and I think I developed a lot over the last few years into becoming a full-time basketballer.

“I think I’ve developed my game under various coaches but I’m still looking to do that when I go to Sydney, it will be a great game to develop under, a new coach and a new system.”

Nicholson then explained what playing for the Flames means to her and what the organisation is like to play for.

“It means a lot [to play for the Flames], I love the idea that my family and friends can come and watch every week, it is where I want to play for the foreseeable future,” Nicholson continued.

“I can see that Sydney is putting together a great team, a great staff and it just means a lot that [the team] is going in the right direction and they are really passionate about Women’s basketball and where it is going and I’m excited about the journey.”

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Coming off three seasons with the Townsville Fire, Nicholson stated that it was only a matter of time before returning to the Flames. The championship win last season signalled the perfect end to her time at the Fire, with a new beginning at the Flames awaiting her.

“It was hard leaving Townsville, I loved it there,” she said.

“I loved playing for Shannon the coach there and, a great bunch of girls but after winning, you do kind of re-evaluate and see where you are at with basketball and I think if we had lost that championship, I don’t know if it would have been Sydney or Townsville I’d be playing at this year.

“I’m glad that we won and I’m glad that I could leave there with a feeling of being a part of a place that I loved and a place that I loved playing and a place that I loved being, and now I can move on and be at Sydney which is where home is and build something special here now as well.”

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Having taken sole-captaincy of the Fire last season, Nicholson has formed a special affinity and relationship with the players and staff of which she helped build the culture with within the club. She described what they built as a club at Townsville and how she is looking to replicate it at Sydney.

“I think we just built a very good group of core players that trusted each other and I think that’s important in any team, just having a core group and really believing in each other and believing that you can win it,” Nicholson explained.

“We created a really great culture there as well, everyone really bought into what we were trying to achieve and that comes down to what players are recruited, what type of people you have, what type of coaching staff or what [the] type of organisation is, so I think that’s what goes into building a championship team.”

The Sydney Flames have had a blistering signing period this off-season signing Opals captain Tess Madgen, reigning league MVP Cayla George, WNBA draftee Shaneice Swain as well as returning Sydney product Lara McSpadden. Nicholson spoke about the roster so far and how they will shape up ahead of the season.

“[The roster is] incredible,” she noted.

“Tess is the Opals captain and she’s developed a lot in the last couple of years, not only as a basketballer, but as a leader and I’m excited to play alongside her.

“I’ve have only ever played with her at Opals camp and at Opals tournaments but it will be great to be on her team for a full season, she’s had a really great career.

“[Then there’s] Cayla George, she was the MVP of the league last season for a reason and I feel like she just keeps getting better the older she gets which is unbelievable to think about.

“I think that Sydney are putting together a team that in contention to win a championship and I wouldn’t have signed at Sydney if I didn’t think that they were going to do that and they have.”

As a leader coming into essentially a new team, Nicholson spoke about how she expects the team culture to be formed and how they will gel.

“When it is time for pre-season in Sydney, it is about creating a real great culture right from the start and I think having people like Tess and Cayla and myself around will really help that and drive that throughout the club,” Nicholson said.

“I think that we have the talent so far from who’s signed, [we have the potential] to be a talented team, we will be a really competitive team so it’s exciting for Sydney and I think we can build something special.”

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