The Fire unleash triple threat

September 17, 2017 | Townsville Fire news

The JCU Townsville Fire’s bid for a third WNBL title in four years could well hinge on their formidable front court.

While five-time WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic and Rio Olympian Cayla George will reunite to form the competition’s most feared duo, the presence of emerging stars Darcee Garbin and Zitina Aokuso may well be the difference, with the star duo showing impressive signs early in pre-season.

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During the Fire’s first hit-out of 2017/18, Batkovic picked up where she left-off, top-scoring with 18 points and 12 rebounds while dominating the paint.

Garbin and Aokuso were just as telling, however, as they combined for 29 points and 11 rebounds and showing impressive signs on the defensive end.

Aokuso had tongues wagging at Townsville Stadium as she sent one block 20 rows back, while threatening to flush home a dunk on the pick and roll.

“We knew Zitina was going to be an exciting player,” Brassard said.

“For someone who has only been playing basketball for three years, (she’s) certainly been picking up things really quickly.

“The learning curve for her is obviously huge, but she has the right attitude, she’s positive about it and she’s trying to pick up everything and soak it all in. So that’s certainly really pleasing.

“Athletically, physically – she’s phenomenal – she’s that perfect body type…she’s really exciting.”

Garbin was just as electrifying, showing the form that led the Emerging Opals to a gold medal at last month’s World University Games and selection in the QBL All*Star Five over winter.

The co-captaincy of the Emerging Opals indicating that she is ready for further responsibility in her third season with the Fire after capturing a title in her first year in North Queensland.

“I think she’s the type of player that is really unselfish,” Brassard said.

“She’s really inclusive and makes sure that all her teammates are ok and she has that really positive attitude at training.

“She’s one that we would probably look to to keep the team together – to be that glue.”

While the Fire’s front court did the bulk of the damage in the first-up win against the Townsville Heat Academy, Mikhaela Donnelly impressed in her return to the WNBL with 10 assists in a telling performance.

Despite her absence from the league during the past three years, the former Gems captain has not missed a beat and will be placing pressure on the Fire’s international point guards for a starting spot.

The Fire continue their pre-season program this week with the Wilmar Sugar Burdekin Blitz including back-to-back games against Perth on Friday and Saturday night.

Click here to learn more about the Wilmar Sugar Burdekin Blitz.