Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - TRENT SLATTER trent.slatter@news.com.au

TOWNSVILLE Fire fan favourite Mia Mur­ray will be­come just the third player to reach 150 games for the club when she takes the court against the Can­berra Cap­i­tals at Townsville Sta­dium tonight. Mur­ray ( right) has been a big part of the club’s suc­cess over the past seven years.

TOWNSVILLE Fire star Mia Mur­ray ( cen­tre) will play her 150th game for the club tonight, join­ing cur­rent guard Mi­caela Cocks and re­tired leg­end Rachael Mc­Cully ( both pic­tured) as the only three play­ers to reach the mile­stone for the club.

SHE’S done it all on the court with the Townsville Fire, but Mia Mur­ray says it’s just as much their suc­cess away from bas­ket­ball that makes her proud to rep­re­sent the WNBL pow­er­house.

Mur­ray will be­come just the third player to reach the 150 games mile­stone for the Fire, be­hind club leg­end Rachael Mc­Cully ( 228) and cur­rent star Mi­caela Cocks ( 158).

Mur­ray started her ca­reer with Can­berra’s Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport in 2005, fol­lowed by three years in Ade­laide, where she grew up, be­fore join­ing Townsville in 2011.

The 29- year- old has been a cru­cial part of the Fire’s suc­cess in her seven sea­sons at the club, play­ing in all four con­sec­u­tive grand fi­nals in­clud­ing their back- to- back ti­tles in 2015 and 2016.

Mur­ray re­called be­ing “su­per ner­vous” in her first game, play­ing along­side stars like Mc­Cully and Jess Fo­ley, but the now vice- cap­tain said she was al­ways proud to wear the Fire sin­glet.

“I love the club and it means so much to me. We’ve had so much suc­cess and I feel re­ally proud to be a part of that,” Mur­ray said.

“I’ve played with some amaz­ing Aus­tralian play­ers and some bril­liant im­ports, but it’s not only the work on the court, it’s the work off the court that I feel proud of.

“We’re recog­nised within the com­mu­nity and we do a lot of stuff with schools and chil­dren. I’m re­ally proud to wear the sin­glet and to con­tinue to do so.”

Mur­ray won’t be the only Fire star to bring up a big mile­stone tonight as Cayla Ge­orge makes her 200th WNBL ap­pear­ance af­ter stints at the AIS, Ade­laide, Lo­gan, and Townsville.

Ge­orge made a blis­ter­ing re­turn to the Fire last week­end af­ter spend­ing a year play­ing in Europe and the WNBA and Mur­ray said she was happy to share the lime­light with her good friend.

“It’s nice to have her back … Cayla’s phe­nom­e­nal,” Mur­ray said.

“A lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t re­alise that she didn’t play a lot of time on the back end of that WNBA sea­son so she’s champ­ing at the bit to come back and play and she started off with a bang.

“Any­one who can bring 21 re­bounds back to the club is a phe­nom­e­nal as­set.

“Cayla’s just su­per bub­bly and hav­ing that pos­i­tiv­ity around train­ing and games is a huge spark for us. I’m re­ally happy to have my mate back.”

Mur­ray en­joyed a solid first hitout in the Fire’s 63- 54 win over Mel­bourne – with nine points, three re­bounds, and two steals – but she in­sisted she wasn’t sat­is­fied with that per­for­mance.

“It took prob­a­bly a quar­ter to blow the cob­webs out and I think that’s the way ev­ery­one was feel­ing,” Mur­ray said.

“We usu­ally play our first game at home, but ev­ery­one was su­per com­mit­ted. Af­ter half­time, I thought we came out bril­liantly and the court opened up for us so that’s a pos­i­tive sign.

“I think we’ve set the tone, but there wasn’t a huge amount of ex­cite­ment af­ter the game. I think ev­ery­one put their hands in and we said ‘ Fire’ and then it was back to busi­ness.

“That’s the way we’re ap­proach­ing this sea­son.

“Ev­ery team’s go­ing to be tough and like ev­ery year we’re the hunted.

“We’re a bit taller than ev­ery other team and we’re deep so I think we’ve set the ex­pec­ta­tion.

“We’ve taken game one away from home and we’re re­ally ex­cited to play in front of our home fans.”

Can­berra and Townsville are the only un­beaten teams af­ter the open­ing round, with the Cap­i­tals claim­ing two strong home wins over Bendigo ( 93- 80) and Ade­laide ( 84- 77).

Can­berra hasn’t made fi­nals since 2011, but they nar­rowly missed out in fifth place last sea­son and coach Paul Gor­ris has his squad de­ter­mined to defy many early pre­dic­tions.

Townsville strug­gled to hit their shots in the low- scor­ing win over Mel­bourne and Mur­ray said the Fire know they will need to lift to match Can­berra’s impressive of­fence.

“I def­i­nitely don’t think they’re the team that their pre­sea­son rank­ings sug­gest,” she said. “They’re a very good team and they’ve been put to­gether re­ally well. They’ve got con­trib­u­tors right across the floor and they’ve got some great play­ers com­ing off the bench so ev­ery­one can score. “They haven’t played away from home yet so I’m ex­pect­ing a pretty high­paced game. They score lots of points as well so our de­fen­sive unit will have to be on.”

Tonight’s game tips off at 7pm at Townsville Sta­dium.


TOP TRIO: Townsville Fire leg­ends Mi­caela Cocks, Mia Mur­ray and Rachael Mc­Cully.

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