The JCU Townsville Fire have put the finishing touches on a successful title defence en route to being crowned the 2015/16 Wattle Valley champions.
Having finally broken through for the club’s maiden title last season after two agonising losses to Bendigo, the Fire went from the hunters to the hunted during a testing year for the North Queensland powerhouse.
The loss of Canadian Olympian Tamara Tatham at Christmas threatened to derail the club’s finals hopes, but with four-time league MVP Suzy Batkovic leading from the front, the Fire was able to snatch the minor premiership in the dying stages before enduring another hiccup with a semi-final loss to Perth.
After much soul searching, the Fire found another gear in the Preliminary Final against SEQ before accounting for the Lynx in Perth.
The crown was officially theirs again last night when they defeated Perth 8070 at Townsville RSL Stadium in game two of the best-of-three series.
“These girls have fought so hard all year and it’s just an incredible outcome, to win it at home again is just an amazing feeling,” Fire captain Suzy Batkovic said.
“It was a tough game the whole game and it wasn’t until the last minute that I started to breathe and thought we’ve got this done.
“Perth are full-time athletes and they get to train twice a day while most of our girls have got to battle it out at work and then slog it out on the court afterwards so I’m just so proud my team.
“They are an unbelievable bunch of girls.”
While Batkovic averaged 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds over the course of the series, the Rachael Sporn Medal was awarded to dual championship winner Micaela Cocks, who posted 14.0 points at 57 per cent, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
It was the New Zealand Olympian’s ability to run the team from the point – and nullify Lynx captain Tess Lavey – which made her a deserving winner.
“It feels good to get this award but I wasn’t expecting it at all and I just went into the games trying to focus on my defence,” Cocks said.
“It feels amazing and especially to be back-to-back champions, it’s hard thing to do and we did it.
“I’m so proud of my team and of Townsville and it feels so good to bring the trophy back to Townsville because they were incredible last night.”
Despite entering the main change leading 54-45, the Lynx went on an 18-0 run to start the second half – silencing the sold-out Townsville RSL Stadium crowd in the process – before the reigning champions rallied in the dying stages of the third quarter.
A 17-0 final quarter onslaught – eerily similar to game one – capped off back-to-back titles as Nat Novosel finished with a team-high 18 points, five rebounds and four steals, while Batkovic finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Mia Murray (16 points), Cayla George (13 points) and Cocks (13 points) also reached double figures.
The Fire will hold a civic reception at Townsville Bulletin Square from 11am on Sunday, March 20 with the two-time WNBL champions presented to the city.
Click here to see full box scores from the second WNBL Grand Final.