Flames celebrate 30th anniversary of club’s first WNBL championship

January 24, 2024 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames will celebrate its proud history on Thursday night by honouring the club’s first-ever WNBL championship.

During the Hoops Capital club’s round 13 fixture with the Southside Flyers, the 1993 Flames team will be in attendance at Quaycentre for a pre-game function, before bringing the squad onto the court at half-time and recognising their importance to the current club.

“I still catch up with a number of the players from that team regularly but this will be the first time the majority of us will be all together, in this type of setting, this the championship – which is special,” 1993 Flames coach Carrie Graf said.


That historic Flames side consisted of Robyn Maher, Annie La Fleur (nee Burgess), Michele Austin (nee Landon), Shelley Gorman, Trish Fallon, Kara Ward, Jodie Craig (nee Smith), Karen Dalton, Gail Henderson and Amanda Giles (nee Faulkner) – with Graff being joined on the staff by Helen Breen, Colette Steer and Lisa Alonso-Tomlinson.

During that season (the WNBL’s 13th of its existence), the Flames went 17-1 during the regular season before defeating Adelaide 64-59 (in overtime) in their semi-final.

That secured their spot in the grand final, which they won in a thriller 65-64 against the Perth Breakers – thanks to MVP Annie La Fleur.

Further to that, Dalton was that season named Defensive Player of the Year and Landon led the league in assists (7.9 per game).

“That was my first year in the WNBL as a head coach and as a 25-year-old, I look back and sometimes think ‘what was I thinking’,” Graf said.

“We knew we had to recruit some more talent, and added major signings in Opals star Shelley Gorman and rising star Trish Fallon.

“Adding those two to a solid core of Michele, Annie, Karen, Kara, Jodie and Amanda was a great start, before Opals captain Robyn and Gail (who was with the Brisbane Blazers) essentially fell into our laps, as both their partners landed jobs in Sydney and wanted to join our team – which I of course said yes to, giving a very good team on paper.

“Looking back on it, I may have been young and raw as a head coach but I knew what it took to win a championship.

“What did work, was everyone had defined roles on the team and we’d all set the expectation of winning a championship.

“It was a big statement but the group – which had a great mix of young and veteran talent – got after it.

“Thankfully we had a lot of players who had spent time on the court with one another and knew what it took to win, so it made my job easy.

“That led to us only losing one game all season and being pitted against, funnily enough, the Guy Molloy-coached Perth in the final.

“I can still remember Michele Timms launching a three-point prayer from the car park and it felt like it went in. slow motion, as the shot ultimately fell short, allowing us to celebrate our first title with the 7,000 fans at the Entertainment Centre.”

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That season may have only been the first of four for Graf in the harbour city but it laid the foundations for future success for the club – which now has four championships to its name.

“That victory changed the standard of success for Sydney moving forward,” said Graf, who was inducted in the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame in 2017.

“Prior to the Flames, Bankstown and Sutherland – NSW’s two WNBL teams – had made some finals series but never won it.

“Getting that first title shows what the program can be – emphasising the work and culture it takes to win – helped by the likes of Mike Wrublewski, Bob Turner and Lorraine Landon, who set a standard of professionalism from a front office perspective.

“As well as those four titles, the Flames have played in countless finals series during their time.”

Tickets to Thursday’s crucial fixture, tipping off at 7.45pm AEDT, are still available here.

  • 1993 WNBL championship photo supplied by the Sydney Morning Herald.