Flames fans urged to turn up in blue

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The Southern Design Sydney University Flames are looking to make the Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre a sea of blue when they host traditional rivals and reigning premiers Canberra in their WNBL home opener this Saturday.

This weekend’s game looms as yet another classic battle between the two powers of the Women’s Basketball League.

The Flames have started the year with four road games, the last of which was played in Alice Springs last weekend, where they defeated the improving West Coast Waves 79-66.

Currently sitting in equal third position with a 3-1 record, the Flames are looking forward to playing in front of their home fans in a “sea of blue.”

Flames head coach Karen Dalton is pleased with the Flames start to the season, but can’t wait for the first home game.

“We have done a solid job in starting 3-1 after four road games, but the real test is now if we can come home and beat the reigning champions to consolidate that start,” she said.

“Canberra is the benchmark for the league, they are the current champions and have started the year in impressive style again, so this will obviously be a big test for our group.

“We were disappointed with the way we played down in Canberra a couple of weeks ago, so I know the girls will be focused and primed for a big performance for our home opener.

I am really hopeful that we can have a great turn-out from our Flames supporters, and we can create a sea of blue inside the Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre.”

As an incentive, the best dressed Flames supporter in blue will win a prize!

The two teams have engaged in some classic battles over the years, including a fiercely contested preliminary final last season and an over-time thriller at Canberra in January.

Throw in a one-point Canberra win on a Natalie Hurt buzzer beater the last time the Capitals visited the Sydney University court and it is not hard to see these two teams have a rich competitive history.

This weekend’s game is the first opportunity for Flames fans to watch new players Amy Denson, Natalie Stafford, Katie-Rae Ebzery and Tanya Smith, along with teenage rookies Lauren Nicholson and Ashleigh Karaitiana.

Denson has made an immediate impact on the league since moving from SEABL club Knox and her ability to score in a variety of ways and her “basketball IQ” make her an important addition to the roster.

Stafford returns to the Flames after a seven-year hiatus and brings scoring punch to the table and an uncanny ability to create her own shot. After spending the northern hemisphere summer with the Great Britain national team, Stafford has stepped right into a key role with the Flames.

Tanya Smith has been frustrated with a foot injury since linking with the club from Townsville, but last year’s league leading rebounder is starting to hit her stride and her height and work rate on the glass will be crucial against the strong Capitals front line.

Last year’s champions have started where they left off, forging an impressive 5-1 record and arrive in Sydney as the league’s in-form team.

Led by experienced WNBL campaigners Carly Wilson and Jess Bibby, the Capitals have shown despite the loss of a host of championship stars, they are one of the teams to beat for the 2010-11 championship.

Rising Opals star Mariana Tolo was at her dominant best against Townsville last weekend and her height, work ethic and expanding offensive repertoire will be a key element for the Flames defence to tackle.

Diminutive Canberra point guard Nicole Hunt has been one of the form guards of the competition since transferring from Dandenong and her clash with Ebzery and Dee Butler in the back court will be a highlight.

This clash is set to have all the hallmarks of a classic Flames-Capitals encounter – hard-nosed defence, physical play in the lane and plenty of passion from both sides.