August 23, 2017 | Sydney Flames news
By Lachy France Further solidifying their position as a club for all of New South Wales women’s basketball, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames have increased the number of Newcastle-raised players on the roster to four, as Susannah Walmsley and Cassidy McLean re-sign for the Flames and Lara McSpadden returns to the club for her second season alongside returning club stalwart Katie-Rae Ebzery. McSpadden, McLean, and Walmsley were members of the Flames’ 2016/17 championship roster, and will now return to the club to not only continue their development but also assist the team in attempting to make a repeat run at the title. McSpadden joined the Flames in 2016 on the back of winning the Under 17 World Championship in Spain with the Australian national team, nicknamed the Sapphires. Playing 7.2 minutes per game, McSpadden averaged 1.6 points and 0.8 rebounds per game as the team dominated the competition on the way to a gold medal. In her first season with the Flames, McSpadden featured in four games, playing just shy of six minutes per contest and averaging 1.5 points per game. With a season of experience under her belt, McSpadden will no doubt be expected to shoulder more of the load in 2017/18.
“It’s obviously really exciting coming back with the same group of girls we won the championship with, and hopefully we can do it again or come close to it again. We have a lot of potential with Asia Taylor and Jen Hamson coming back. It’ll be all hard work again and hopefully we get in the finals and back up the championship,” McSpadden explained. “It’s really cool having the strong Newcastle background in the team, giving the Newcastle kids some people to look up to and some inspiration.”
McSpadden has had a rather eventful WNBL offseason, playing for both the Sydney Uni Sparks SEABL team as well as joining the national Under 19 team for the World Championships, where Australia finished sixth. The centre averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19 SEABL games, and averaged 2.8 points and 1.8 rebounds in her five appearances at the Under 19 World Championships. McLean was also a member of the Sapphires side that clinched the 2016 Under 17 World Championship, where the point guard came off the bench to average 3 points in 8.6 minutes per game. Originally in the Flames squad as a development player, McLean managed to tally nine appearances in 2016/17, averaging 1.9 points in 6.3 minutes per game. Over the winter, McLean has juggled her HSC studies with a stint as starting point guard for the Newcastle Waratah League side, playing 10 of the team’s 16 games and averaging 13.1 points per contest as the Hunters finished the season 8-8.
“It feels awesome to rejoin the Flames, especially on the back of my rookie year and the championship,” McLean enthused. “Playing alongside the Newcastle girls makes it feel more like home, and makes the moving away from home easier. It's going to be another successful and great year as the coaching staff and girls are all brilliant and very supportive on and off the court.”
Walmsley also came to the Flames off the back of a championship in 2016, winning the Waratah League title with a Newcastle Hunters side that dropped just one game en route to the title. After featuring in six games for the Flames last season, Walmsley is eager to return to the team for more playing time in 2017/18.
“Growing up in New South Wales it was always a dream of mine to play for the Flames so I'm really excited to be back with the team this year,” Walmsley explained. “I learnt so much from Cheryl and all of the girls last year and I'm really looking forward to the season ahead.”
Like McSpadden, Walmsley has also spent the winter playing for the Sydney Uni Sparks in the SEABL competition, with the team reaching the conference preliminary final in the program’s inaugural season. Walmsley led the team from the point guard position for much of the season, averaging 7.7 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds in 24 appearances for the Sparks. The addition of the McLean, McSpadden, and Walmsley completes the Flames’ roster for the 2017/18 season, and takes the number of New South Wales juniors on the roster to six, alongside fellow Novocastrian Katie-Rae Ebzery, Penrith’s Tahlia Tupaea, and Tamworth product Carly Boag.

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