SYDNEY UNIVERSITY FLAMES FEATURE
As we continue our club features for 2017, take a look at the history of the Sydney Uni Flames and the path that has led them to this WNWBL season.
The Sydney Uni Flames wheelchair basketball team are both a Wheelchair Sports New South Wales (WSNSW) team and a Sydney University Sport and Fitness team that were formed in 2010 when the Hills Hornets team moved across to Sydney University.
One of the league’s inaugural teams, the Hornets were the most successful club in WNWBL history, having won eight consecutive Championships when they became the Flames but Sydney Uni maintained that success as they secured the 2010 title to make it nine straight Championships.
Liesl Tesch was a founding member of Hills and the seven-time Paralympian was named the first ever league overall MVP in 2000 before following up in 2001 and 2004.
Alongside Kylie Gauci (2003’s overall MVP), the Hornets had at least one player feature in the All-Star Five every season until 2005 while in 2007, Tesch was joined by Katie Hill- the team’s current assistant coach.
Sydney Uni has also been a breeding ground for emerging stars with Sharnie Grazules named the Best New Talent in 2006, Shelley Cronau in 2010 and Annabelle Lindsay last year.
This season, the Flames are excited to introduce rookie Brodie Palmer and newcomers to the team Sandra Sono and Patricia Luff who will complement an array of WNWBL champions and Paralympic-calibre players.
The club is led on and off the court by Sarah Stewart, a three-time Paralympian who has played over 200 games for Australia.
She has won two silver Paralympic medals and competed at three World Championships while she also serves as the Flames’ team manager and captain.
Stewart was named the 3-Point MVP in 2009, ’10, ’13 and ‘14 before earning the title once again last season while also claiming the overall MVP.
She is joined this season by 2014 World Championship team member Stephanie van Leeuwen, silver medalist at the 2015 Under-25 World Championships Hannah Dodd, Gliders squad member Zeena Suavaga, dedicated member of the Flames Kim Hughes, Tracey Carruthers who was a previous team mate of Tesch at the Hornets as well as the reigning Best New Talent player in Annabelle Lindsay who is only playing in her second season.
They are coached by Alan Cox, previously the head coach at the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) and assistant coach with the Australian Rollers while he currently heads up the WSNSW Talent Athlete Program.
The Flames are just as active off the court in the community, with Stewart leading a weekly women’s wheelchair basketball session for WSNSW as well as regular weekend sessions for regional and junior wheelchair basketballers to join the athletes at Sydney Uni.
With WSNSW, Stewart and the Flames also run the Women’s Festival of Wheelchair Basketball– the only other women’s wheelchair basketball tournament in Australia apart from the WNWBL.
The Flames are coming off a season in which they claimed the bronze medal but after two rounds, they are leading the competition with a 7-1 record and an eight-point edge.