Southside Flyers was formed in July 2019, taking over from the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL for the 2019/20 season. Gerry Ryan, a long-time supporter of women’s sport in Australia, including the Rangers through Jayco Australia, was granted the licence to run the WNBL team. Australian Opals Assistant Coach and 3-time WNBL Coach of the Year, Cheryl Chambers is the inaugural coach of the Southside Flyers.
The Southside Flyers is a fresh start for the team with fresh faces and a new look, the start of a new era. The new team will play home games at Dandenong Stadium and continue to respect the history of the Dandenong Rangers, one of Australia’s most successful domestic women’s basketball teams.
Dandenong Rangers History
Dandenong entered the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) at the beginning of the 1992 season following the tireless work of David Kelly and Alex Palazzolo. At the time, Kelly was President of the Dandenong Basketball Association and was instrumental in obtaining a WNBL license from the Nunawading Spectres while Palazzolo was a successful coach at the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) level and became the Rangers inaugural head coach.
Amazingly in their first year, the Rangers finished third at the end of the regular season with a 14-and-6 win/loss record before eventually finishing runners-up to Perth. Between 1994 and 2002 the Rangers progressed to a qualifying final (1997), a preliminary final (2000/01) and a semi-final (2001/02) under coaches Steve Barr and Mark Wright before Gary Fox took over at the beginning of the 2002/03 season.
The youthful Rangers missed the playoffs that year while Fox was named Coach of the Year in his rookie year but the following season saw the beginning of a historic run for the WNBL club. Fox led the Rangers to their first even WNBL championship, defeating Sydney Uni 63-53 in the Grand Final after the team finished the season on top of league ladder. The Rangers became back-to-back league champions the following season, again defeating Sydney Uni after posting an amazing 19-and-2 win/loss regular season record.
The club’s brilliant run of form continued into the 2005/06 season. The Rangers claimed the minor premiership for the third consecutive season before falling just short in the Grand Final, going down to Canberra. Fox was again named Coach of the Year.
In season 2010/11, Mark Wright returned to coach the Jayco Rangers following a seven-year basketball hiatus. Wright’s no nonsense attitude immediately impacted the playing group as the team built a blue collar culture, returning to the WNBL playoffs in his first season back on the sidelines.
2011/12 was Wright’s most successful season at the helm of the Jayco Rangers program, guiding his team to the WNBL Championship, defeating cross town rival the Bulleen Boomers 94-70 in front of a sold out crowd at The Cage in Melbourne.
Playing out of Dandenong Stadium since 1992, the club celebrated their first two championships by winning them on their home court – which they, with the help of wonderful crowd support, have turned into a fortress for visiting teams.
The club underwent an extensive change in 1997, launching a highly successful corporate sponsorship campaign which secured them a naming rights sponsor in Jayco Caravans, which is still the clubs leading sponsor today.
A uniqueness of the Dandenong WNBL club and a strength that underpins it allows the wealth of Victorian junior basketball talent the opportunity to enter the Dandenong Basketball Association at a young age and progress through the ranks to the WNBL.
The Rangers have had many Australian basketball greats wear their colours, such as Lucille Bailie, Allie Douglas, Natalie Porter, Tracey Browning, Sam Thornton, Jessica Bibby, Carly Wilson, Sam Richards, Sally Phillips, Larissa Anderson and Narelle Fletcher and more recently Emily McInerny, an 9-time WNBL Defensive Player of the Year and World Champion Opal. On top of that, the club was called home by one of Australia’s and the world’s best ever players Penny Taylor. After graduating from the AIS in 1999, Taylor joined the Rangers and took the league by storm. In her two seasons at the club, Taylor was named league MVP on both occasions (2000/01, 2001/02), was a two-time All-Star and scored an amazing 1458 points in just 65 games.
In 2011/12 the Jayco Rangers were led by Olympians Jenna O’Hea & Kathleen MacLeod. O’Hea & MacLeod, childhood best friends returned from the 2012 London Olympics after helping the Opals to a Bronze Medal. Both players were instrumental in Dandenong’s 2011/2012 Championship with MacLeod being awarded WNBL Finals MVP.
In the 2012/13 WNBL season, the Jayco Rangers were able to retain the core of the championship side, whilst adding a number of juniors. The season looked promising but the ream fell short in the preliminary final against Townsville. 2013/14 followed a similar path to the previous year unfortunately for the Rangers after starting the year off well and finishing in 2nd place, the Rangers were knocked out in the preliminary final again by the Townsville Fire.
2014/15 was an exciting year for the Rangers with the additions of two superstars of women’s basketball to the team in Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter. While there were many highs throughout the season an untimely injury to Taylor in the first elimination final saw the Rangers knocked out of contention. The game was championship coach, Mark Wrights, final game as head coach, as the Rangers welcomed in a new era in 2015/16 with former player and Rangers SEABL Head Coach Larissa Anderson taking over at the helm of the Jayco Rangers.
That new era came within two wins of another WNBL title, with Jayco Rangers superstars Sara Blicavs & Steph Blicavs leading the Rangers to the Semi Finals in 15/16 and the 2016-17 WNBL Grand Final series, falling to Sydney. Last year would be the final season of Rangers basketball for Steph Blicavs, taking her talents to Adelaide after the team’s injury riddled season in 2017-18, with Sara Blicavs, Laia Palau and Amelia Todhunter all falling to injury during the season.
In 201819 Jayco Rangers welcomed back Sara & Amelia from injury along with new stars Bec Cole and Rachel Jarry joining young stars Bec Pizzey, Kiera Rowe and Steph Reid. While the team missed finals action Bec Cole had an outstanding season winning the club MVP.