Dual Olympian Suzy Batkovic-Brown was presented with the Most Valuable Player award at the Sydney University Flames’ 2009-10 presentations on Friday night, but she would have traded the accolade for a WNBL title.
The 193cm centre was a late and welcome inclusion to the Flames roster for the season. She ended up being the highest pointscorer for the franchise and being included in the All Star five, along with Deanna Smith, who was also MVP runner-up. Batkovic-Brown had already shared the WNBL’s MVP award with Lauren Jackson, who led the Canberra Capitals to the 2009-10 title over Bulleen.
Among the other Flames awards presented on the night, Jaimee Kennedy received the Coach’s Award; Paul Gray received the Acknowledgement Award; and Mikaela Dombkins and Ellie Manou finished first and second in the Impact Player Awards.
And Natalie Porter was awarded Life Membership of the WNBL, having played 250 games in the league.
It was also announced on the night that the Sydney University Flames Basketball program will be expanded to include a team in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League. The Wheelchair Flames will be the former Hills Hornets – WNWBL champions for eight of the past nine seasons.
In making the announcement, Rodney Tubbs, Corporate and Alumni Relations Manager at SUSFC, said two of the leading players in the team – Sarah Stewart and Caitlin De Wit – are integral members of the Australian Gliders team and sporting scholars at Sydney University, where both are studying.
“From now on, Sydney University Flames sponsors will receive the added value of being recognised as sponsors of both the Flames’ WNBL and WNWBL teams,” he said.
Stewart, a dual Paralympian who is working on a PhD, said the inclusion of the team under the Flames franchise will be great for wheelchair basketball. “This will give our players greater acceptance and enrich that side of their lives,” she said.
Having won silver at the 2004 Olympics and bronze at the 2008 Games, Stewart said she is aiming for selection in the Australian team to compete at the 2010 World Cup in Birmingham in July.
The President of Sydney University Sport and Fitness, Bruce Ross, said although the Flames had been denied a shot at the 2009-10 title after being eliminated by eventual winners, Canberra Capitals, in the final, the team had shown great tenacity in taking their season down to the wire.
“The culture of the Flames was evident when Suzy (Batkovic-Brown) was injured two games out from the finals,” Mr Ross said. “The rest of the Flames had no excuses – they got on with the job. Indeed, the two games against the Canberra Capitals at the end of the season were of the highest standard, with game two going into overtime. They then had to defeat Townsville to make the finals. Although they lost the major semi-final to Bulleen, to the credit of the team and coach Karen Dalton, they played their hearts out and the game went to the wire.”
Mr Ross said the Flames are a team to be proud of. “They are the best physically conditioned in the league and the best coached,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll retain the squad and go on to bigger things in the future.”