By Lachy France
Following three seasons away from the club, 2009 WNBL Rookie of the Year and World University Games bronze medallist Sarah Graham has rejoined Brydens Sydney Uni Flames for the 2016/17 season. Having played for Dandenong Rangers, Logan Thunder and West Coast Waves as well as the Flames, Graham brings plenty of experience to what is an otherwise young Flames backcourt.
Although Graham sat out the 2015/16 season through injury, the guard’s shooting was one of the bright spots for a struggling West Coast Waves side in 2014/15, averaging 10.73 points per game whilst also contributing 1.6 assists per contest. Now based in Sydney full-time, the familiarity of the club and the opportunity to stay local struck a chord with Graham in making the choice to sign with the Flames.
“I’m set up in Sydney now, and I knew the club from that season I played a few years ago,” Graham revealed. “When I found out Cheryl [Chambers] got the coaching job, it was pretty much a no-brainer.”
Although Graham has never played under Chambers before, the two have faced off on several occasions and Graham has been impressed by Chambers’ coaching style.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve played against Cheryl, but she always knew what she was talking about and seemed like a smooth operator on the court,” Graham explained. “She’s pretty straight up and down, which I’ve always liked in a coach.”
Although Graham spent the 2012/13 season with the Flames, an unfortunate broken foot in the very first game of the season restricted her to just 10 appearances in her first stint with the club, something Graham is keen to rectify.
Last time I missed most of the season after I broke my foot in the first game of the year, so I feel like I didn’t really achieve much last time I was here,” Graham explained. “I also didn’t really help the group last time as much as I would’ve liked to or could have.”
“’I’ve been out with a knee injury and missed last WNBL season, so for me it’s about getting back on the court and back into the WNBL, and to give a little more than I got to last time I played for the Flames,” Graham revealed.
A deadly shooter from 3 point range, Graham is keen to showcase a wider, more rounded, repertoire in her second stint with the Flames, including mentoring the younger players in the Flames squad.
“I’d like to contribute points-wise, distributing the ball, creating for myself and other people, and getting into that point guard spot a little bit,” the 27 year old Graham outlined. “But being a little bit older now, and hopefully wiser, I can help a little more in the leadership roles and assist the younger girls of the group.”
With almost a decade of WNBL experience now, Graham has been involved in both struggling and successful teams, including playing in Logan Thunder’s first finals campaign in 2010/11. That experience has allowed Graham to be thoughtful yet confident when it comes to the Flames’ chances this season.
“We’ve signed an import who’s a big in Jennifer Hamson, which is something we’ve obviously needed coming into this year,” Graham indicated. “Jelling is the big question, as it is every year when you’re bringing new players in, but anytime you play you’re playing for the championship.”
“Getting to the finals and having a meaningful season is the goal, and not losing sight of that throughout the season. Get to the finals, reassess, and see what happens from there.”
With a young but talented backcourt featuring Tahlia Tupaea, Lauren Nicholson, and Alex Wilson, Graham’s experience may be just the thing the Flames need to keep the side grounded and on track throughout 2016/17 as they make the push for their first finals campaign since 2014/15.