Any speculation about whether this season’s WNBL champion would have an asterisk next to their title was forgotten after Sunday afternoon’s grand final at Townsville Stadium.
In front of 1825 vocal spectators, the Southside Flyers secured a convincing 99-82 victory over the Townsville Fire for claim their first WNBL title since 2012.
This season’s tournament was condensed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning each franchise only played 13 group stage matches before a reduced finals series.
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But Opals star Liz Cambage described the unconventional competition as one of the most challenging experiences in her professional career to date.
“It’s been a long 55 days,” Cambage said after Sunday’s grand final. “It’s been a marathon.
“This has been the biggest grind of a basketball season I’ve ever felt.
“It’s just relief, you know?”
Australian basketball icon Andrew Gaze believes the Flyers’ victory is more remarkable considering the players have been away from friends and family in a biosecurity bubble.
“A lot of people may look at a shortened season like this and say, ‘Well is there an asterisk next to it?’ Of course not,” Gaze said after the final. “In some essence, it’s actually harder.
“In such a condensed season, all the different hurdles you’ve got to overcome, and to win it in that environment with those hurdles can make it even more special.”
Elizabeth Cambage of the Flyers.Source:Getty Images
Cambage managed 14 points and five rebounds during the decider in Townsville. The 29-year-old had not won a WNBL title since 2011, when she secured her maiden championship with the Bulleen Boomers.
“I sent (Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea) a text message back in March,” Cambage said. “I saw a photo of us celebrating the Boomers grand final like 10 years ago, and I sent it to her and said, ‘Jenna, I want this again’.
“I hadn’t even thought about signing (for the Flyers) yet, I just wanted that moment again with Jenna.
“She’s one the best leaders, the smartest players and just an all-round amazing athlete, and I’m just so happy I got to do it again with her.”
🏆 @SouthsideFlyers, the 2020 @ChemistWhouse #WNBL CHAMPIONS!#WNBLFinals #WNBL20 pic.twitter.com/8UxxGIOsaE
Congratulations @SouthsideFlyers 👏👏👏 #WNBL20 #WNBLGF
Well done @SouthsideFlyers. 2020 @WNBL champs. Great talent playing entertaining basketball. 🏆
Southside point guard Leilani Mitchell fell one point short of equalling the all-time record for most points in a WNBL grand final match.
After a blistering start, Mitchell finished with 31 points against the Fire. The record was set by Renae Camino in 2008, who managed 32 points for the Adelaide Lightning against the Sydney Uni Flame.
Regardless, the 35-year-old was deservedly awarded the Rachael Sporn Medallist for the Grand Final MVP.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Mitchell said after the final.
“I think we have the most selfless group. Every night we went on court, and we didn’t care who scored, who got the stats. Tonight it just happened to be me.”
Congratulations to @SouthsideFlyers' Leilani Mitchell, the Rachael Sporn Medallist for the Grand Final MVP.
In today's Championship game, Mitchell finished the game with 31pts, 4rbs, 5ast.#WNBLFinals #WNBL20 #WeAreWNBL pic.twitter.com/3U2xG8cPU0
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