Purcell aims to carry Commonwealth Games form into WNBL

August 15, 2022 | Sydney Flames news

Kalani Purcell appears poised for her best season yet with the Sydney Flames, coming off the back of an exceptional off-season with the New Zealand 3×3 team at Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games.

At her second Commonwealth Games, after attending the 2018 event at the Gold Coast, Purcell helped her Tall Ferns finish fourth in Birmingham – going down to Australia 15-13 in the bronze medal game.

“Obviously we’re disappointed with how the tournament ended for us – having won all three of our pool matches before losing both our semi-final to Canada and bronze playoff,” said Purcell, who really enjoyed experiencing different villages (compared to one on the Gold Coast), allowing her to witness the approach and training of other sports, such as beach volleyball.

“But considering that was just the second tournament we’ve played together as a group, I was really proud of us and how we once again proved that New Zealand is an improving nation of basketball talent.”

From a personal perspective, the 27-year-old was pleased with how she performed at Smithfield.

“After the recent world cup tournament, I was disheartened with how I played, knowing full well I’m capable of more than that,” she said.

“Despite that, I came into the Commonwealth Games with a positive mindset, in a hope of proving what I can do on the court at an international level, which I thought I did – helping our team in whatever way was needed.”


Since returning to Australia, Purcell has quickly changed her focus back to the NBL1 with her Southern Districts Spartans, who have already qualified for the inaugural national finals at Melbourne’s State Basketball Centre.

Before then though, the Spartans will battle Townsville in Saturday’s semi-final for a spot in the big dance against Logan or Brisbane.

“I’ve really enjoyed the season with the Spartans, although the travel has been a little tough to manage at times,” said Purcell, who is averaging 11.64 points, 10.36 rebounds and 6.14 assists this season.

“Our group has had a fantastic year thus far and we’re all keen to end it on a high over the coming weeks.

“As a whole, it’s really exciting to see the direction the NBL1 competition is headed for basketball all across the country.”

Once those commitments wrap up, Purcell, who will be entering year two with the club, and her Flames teammates will assemble in Sydney on Wednesday, September 21 to begin preparations for the 2022-23 WNBL season.

“I’ve spoken to Shane [Heal] a fair bit lately and he’s been really happy with how I’ve been playing, especially in terms of the poise and control I’m playing with,” said Purcell, who established herself as one of the competition’s premier defenders last season and was rewarded by winning the Flames’ Defensive Player of the Year award.

“The busy off-season has allowed me to stay fit and improve my speed across the court.

“I’m ready to carry all this momentum and help the Flames build on what we achieved last year into this upcoming WNBL season.”

Purcell is one of four players, alongside Shyla Heal, Keely Froling and Keira Rowe, returning to the Flames from last season.

That quartet will be joined on Heal’s roster by imports Jocelyn Willoughby and Hannah Sjerven as well as recruits Tiana Mangakahia, Indiah Bowyer, Emma Clarke and Vanessa Panousis.