SOUTHERN DESIGN SYDNEY UNI FLAMES - CLUB HISTORY
When the WNBL commenced in 1981, both Sutherland and Bankstown were the foundation members of the league to represent Sydney. This major positive for Sydney would not have happened without the dedication and work ethic of Lorraine Landon, Robbie Cadde, who, alongside the Bankstown board of Management, were instrumental in having Bankstown accepted as a team in the WNBL.
Despite the protests from other states, Landon and Cadde fought hard to have two Sydney teams recognised in the league and in their second year the Bankstown Bruins, as they were known, proved their worth by finishing runner-up to St. Kilda after finishing as minor premiers. Cadee, who was also the Opals head coach also doubled as the Bruins coach for the clubs first two seasons.
Over the next four seasons Kevin Landon, Steve Farnham, Alan Morris and Rick Bywater all spent a season as the Bruins head coach before Cadee returned for the 1988 and 1989 seasons. In 1989 the club became known as the Sydney Bruins but missed the playoffs. Bernie Slattery tallied 30 wins and 36 losses as head coach over the next three seasons with the team becoming known as the Sydney Flames in 1992.
Carrie Graf took over in 1993 and to say her effect was immediate is an understatement. Graf led her star studded line-up that included National team players Karen Dalton, who would play a record 375 games for the club and represent Australia at two Olympic Games and four World Championships, Annie Burgess, Robyn Maher and Shelley Sandie to the clubs first WNBL championship on the back of a 17-and-1 win/loss season.
Over the next three seasons the Flames compiled 47 wins and just 7 losses but fell at the last hurdle, including dropping the 1996 Grand Final.
Also during this time, Graf welcomed in star point guard Michelle Timms and the young Trish Fallon, who went onto captain the Opals at the Olympics, bolstering what was simply an outstanding team.
Bill Tomlinson took over head coaching duties for the 1997season and steered the Flames to an 18-and-0 regular season and the clubs second WNBL championship, beating Adelaide in the decider after they had inflicted the Flames sole defeat of the season a fortnight earlier in the semi finals.
Under the guidance of Murray Wardle, the Flames finished runners-up in 1998 before missing the finals in 1998/99. Tomlinson returned in 1999/2000 before championship winning coach Tom Maher joined forces with club legend Dalton and led the club to the 2000/01 title – the same year the club became known as the Sydney Panthers.
Daltons’ transformation from player to coach was complete in 2001/02 when she led the Panthers to the Grand Final, narrowly losing 75-69. This ushered the start of an extremely successful era for the Sydney club, who since have progressed to every Grand Final except for the 2005/06 season. Despite going down in all of the championship deciders, the Sydney Uni Flames, which they became in 2003/04, have set the bench mark in the WNBL.
Current team manager Jodie Smith played 231 games for the club while Burgess finished with 223 games, Michele Landon with 190 and Maher with 145 games. The club has boasted many other Opals representatives, including Natalie Porter, Alicia Poto, Michelle Musselwhite and 2006 World Championship Opal Belinda Snell.