Lo­cal com­mu­nity res­cues team on the brink

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

ral­lied around the em­bat­tled team, which will re­main li­cenced to Townsville Bas­ketb a l l . F i r e g u n R a c h a e l Flana­gan, who hob­bled to the event fol­low­ing re­cent knee surgery, was given added rea­son to cel­e­brate when she was crowned the club’s Most Valu­able Player for a sec­ond straight cam­paign.

Av­er­ag­ing 14 points and five as­sists, Flana­gan was the cat­a­lyst be­hind the Fire’s un­likely charge at a play-offs berth. In other awards on the night, Amy Lewis clinched the Ex­cel­lence Award, while re­tir­ing WNBL le­gend Jo Hill bowed out with a de­serv­ing dou­ble, claim­ing Play­ers’ Player and the Fans’ Choice Award.

B u t t h e n i g h t w a s Flana­gan’s. Af­ter the 28-yearold’s blis­ter­ing 2009-10, coach Peter Buckle said she had soared to even greater heights this sea­son.

‘‘ She was good in the first half of the sea­son, but her back end was out­stand­ing,’’ Buckle said. ‘‘ Her points pro­duc­tion, her as­sists and her de­fen­sive ef­forts are un­ques­tion­able, I think her game we n t t o a n o t h e r l e v e l . ’ ’ Flana­gan, who is the WNBL’s reign­ing de­fender of the year and found her­self on the Aus­tralian Opals’ radar fol­low­ing last sea­son, could be among the first cho­sen for 2011 in­ter­na­tional du­ties, the na­tional as­sis­tant coach said.

‘‘ From my mind, Flana­gan’s go­ing to be right up there,’’ Buckle said.

‘‘ Her bat­tles with ( high­lyrated WNBL point guards) Tully Bevilaqua and Kristi Har­rower have been great and she’s cer­tainly set her­self a stan­dard. A lot of peo­ple talk about Kath Ma­cleod but I think Flana­gan’s com­ing into her own. She’s one of the few point guards that can de­fend well on the ball and be an at­tack­ing of­fen­sive player.’’

It was an emo­tional night for Hill, of­fi­cially farewelling a 16-year ca­reer.

FAREWELL: Jo Hill who claimed the Play­ers’ Player and the Fans’ Choice Awards at the Fire din­ner

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