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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3153

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (10:05): I rise today to congratulate the Townsville Fire Women's NBL team on what was a remarkable season. The Townsville Fire actually folded last year and the efforts of local businesspeople, including a steering committee comprising Townsville Enterprise chair, David Kippin, local podiatrist Jane Arlett, and Michelle Morton from wilson/ryan/grose, along with many other people, got this team off the ground.

The first thing they did was to get a new coach and from that they got people to stay. Key to that was keeping Rachael Flanagan, our captain, the heart and soul of the team and current Opal. From there we built a team. We were short on height but we had a wonderful feeling about the side. When we entered this NBL season the ABC refused to come to Townsville to broadcast a game live. We were only expected to hang around. The local basketball fraternity as well as the corporate world got involved and packed Murray stadium regularly to watch these girls go around. We recently had the trophy presentation night after making the semifinals and beating the Sydney Uni Flames in the first semifinal before going down to Dandenong in the preliminary final.

Mr Matheson: The eventual premiers.

Mr EWEN JONES: They were the eventual premiers. But can I say that the way the women play the game is as close as you will see to real sport. The Townsville Fire are ferocious at the ball. Micaela Cocks although a 'dirty Kiwi'—that is an in-joke in Townsville—was just spectacular. Shanavia Dowdell was our MVP for the season and has dominated the season. I was lucky enough to do the auction where we raised lots of money for the players going through.

The one thing I would like to say about the Fire is that they do concentrate on the local talent. We have Nadeen Payne who is an 18-year-old local talent and the Froling twins who are only 15 going on 16 years old. One of the twins made their debut in the Women's NBL this year. It is a true credit to the local basketball fraternity to be able to bring this talent through. Both Froling twins have just been selected in the Australian under-19 side. It is a truly wonderful thing for Townsville.

The ABC should be castigated for not coming to Townsville to broadcast these games regularly. The Fire are a fantastic team and we have a great stadium. We have great support in Townsville and the ABC should get on board and base some people up there to make sure that we do get these things brought to bear.