WNBL 2021/22 Season Review: Southside Flyers

After winning the championship last season, the Southside Flyers missed the finals in WNBL22. (Photo: Southside Flyers; Design: Will Cuckson)

After winning the championship last season, the Southside Flyers missed the finals in WNBL22, ending the season seventh on the ladder. The Inner Sanctum has a look at how Southside’s year unfolded.

Snapshot

Finishing position: 7th (five wins, 11 losses)

The Southside Flyers came into this season as the reigning champions, after taking out the title in the WNBL 2020/21 season. However their season this year didn’t go to plan, finishing without qualifying for finals in 2022 due to the loss of several key players.

Liz Cambage, Leilani Mitchell, Stephanie Blicavs, Rebecca Pizzey and Monique Conti left the Flyers at the end of last season and left large gaps for the team to fill. However, with a nucleus of experienced players surrounded by youth and new faces, it will continue to be an exciting team to watch in the future.

Southside added Abby Bishop, Kristy Wallace and Maddison Rocci, and all were great inclusions. However, the Flyers were unable to get them all together for a full season.

Rocci did her part for the team in her first season with the Southside Flyers. In 15 games, the former Canberra Capitals guard averaged 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.

The 23-year-old was also great defensively, she averaged 1.7 steals per game and was named among one of the nominees for defensive player of the year.

Southside was affected heavily by COVID interruptions and players going into health and safety protocols throughout the season. It was also affected when some of its players were called up to the Opals squad.

It went from bad to worse for the Flyers, whose star players were already unavailable, when centre Abby Bishop went down with an injury.

Despite the injury to Bishop, it allowed Emilee Whittle-Harmon to step in and show that she belonged at the level.

In 12 games, Whittle-Harmon averaged 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds. The 31-year-old also finished the season with the second-best field goal percentage, shooting 56.5 per cent from the field.

If the Flyers had most of their players available, their season could have been a different story.

What worked:

Once Southside’s roster was fully fit and had time to gel and find its chemistry, it showed shades of what it was capable of. The Flyers’ defence also improved and it allowed them to stay in games for longer.

When looking at the pieces on the Flyers’ roster, you can see with another season of development and hopefully fewer interruptions, they can be contenders.

Rebecca Cole led the way for Southside, averaging the fifth-most points in the league with 16.7 points per game. She was followed by teammate Sara Blicavs who averaged 16 points per game.

The Flyers’ offence was fantastic – they finished second in three-point percentage, with Rebecca Cole leading the way, shooting 46.5 per cent on five attempts per game. Jenna O’Hea was also one of the best three-point shooters on the team, shooting 35.6 per cent for the year.

Southside averaged the most assists in the league across the season; this was a trademark of its game as it shared the ball well and got teammates into the game.

What didn’t:

The Flyers struggled to string together wins and momentum throughout the season.

Southside never won two games in a row until its final two games of the season. However, it lost three games in a row in its first seven games which doesn’t help a team to play with confidence.

Another aspect that the Flyers had trouble with this year was their defence. They conceded nearly 83 points per game. They had 10 games where the opposition scored over 80 points and they lost two games by over 30 points.

The Flyers showed when they were able to score and limit the opposition from scoring, they could remain in games. Otherwise, they would find it hard to keep games close because they were unable to contain their opposition and were scored heavily against.

Having a team full of some new faces, it was going to take time for Southside to gel as a team and work out its chemistry on the court.

Unfortunately, the Flyers weren’t afforded this luxury as the season played out with several players missing out with Opals duty and injury.

COVID interruptions also played a major factor in the team not being able to build continuity with several players missing through the health and safety protocols throughout the year.

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Club MVP:

Rebecca Cole was crowned the club’s MVP this season and this was undoubtedly the right decision. Cole played 15 games out of 17 this season, missing two due to Opals selection.

In 15 games, the 30-year-old averaged 16.7 points, four rebounds and three assists per game. She was a dead-eye from three-point range and the free-throw line, boasting the highest three-point shooting percentage in the WNBL (46.5 per cent) and shooting 90 per cent from the charity stripe.

Southside’s starting shooting guard also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and a massive 49 defensive rebounds demonstrating her value to the team on both ends of the court.

When not scoring, Cole had no trouble getting her teammates involved in the game, dishing out 50 assists.

Looking ahead:

Looking ahead to the next season, the Flyers will be without captain Jenna O’Hea, who retired at the end of this season.

The 34-year-old finishes her decorated basketball career, having played 154 WNBA games for the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm. She is a three-time WNBL champion, six-time WNBL All-Star, and multiple time Opals representative.

O’Hea was also a part of the Opals team that won bronze at the 2012 London Olympic Games and gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Olympic Games.

The veteran guard has been a star for Southside so it will be interesting to see the team will go without her leadership and talent in seasons to come.

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