TIAHRN Flynn is now the third Lakeside player to reach 200 games in the Women’s SBL and the 2018 championship winning guard couldn’t be prouder to achieve the milestone considering the sacrifices she’s made along the way.
Flynn debuted with the Lightning in the SBL back in 2010 and has been a permanent fixture at Lakeside ever since whether it’s been Grand Final making teams like in 2014 and 2018, or one-win seasons like in 2015.
She has remained a consistent and strong contributor right the way through who got the reward of the championship in 2018 and now last Friday night against the Warwick Senators, she reached 200 games in the SBL.
Highlighting what a significant achievement it is from the 26-year-old is the fact that she’s just the third female in history at Lakeside to bring up 200 games, behind teammates Jess Van Schie and Courtney Mansfield.
It’s a milestone that Flynn had never thought too much about, she just has continued to go about her business by turning up to train and play when healthy enough to do so ever since her debut back in 2010.
She never set her sights on personal milestones or anything, but now that she has got to 200-game mark it provides a chance for some reflection and she is deservedly proud of what she has achieved, and to do it while still only 26 years of age.
“It’s not something that I really thought that I would get to in my career to be honest,” Flynn said.
“It’s just something that has now happened along the way with my body being pretty good so I’ve been able to suit up for SBL and play for Lakeside. Because the experience has been so good, it’s been easy to get to the 200 games without really thinking too much about it.
“When you get to a milestone like this it feels a bit weird to be talked about, but I feel like I don’t take all the credit for it either and it’s a bit of a strange feeling.
“It’s just something that has happened and it was crazy when I was told at the start of the season that I would be playing my 200th game at some point this season.
“When I found that out, I was blown away a little bit and then you look back at the other people who have made it that far, and it’s crazy that you are part of that group. There are only a few people who make it to that many games so that makes me realise it’s a good achievement.”
Considering the multiple long days it provides every week with the early rises for basketball and late finishes for training at night with juggling a full-time job in between, milestones like this and successes like winning a championship make it all worthwhile for Flynn in the big picture.
“A milestone like this makes those sacrifices worth it. Knowing the hours that you have to put in and the hours you have to get up early for, and even just giving back to the younger kids as well, the hours you put into everything is pretty massive,” Flynn said.
“But it makes it feel like a great success at the end of the day when you achieve things like winning a championship and milestones like this. But I feel supported all along the way too from the girls that I’ve coached who have come to me and asked for advice the next season. I continue to feel all the support I need at Lakeside from so many people.”
Just because Flynn has got to 200 games relatively quickly and while still being quite young, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some hurdles to overcome along the way including seasons in 2012 and 2016 that were ravaged by injury where she only played 13 and 10 games respectively.
But looking back now, she always still felt part of the team at Lakeside and that’s what made sitting on the sidelines something that could be dealt with a little easier.
“There have been some hiccups along the way, though, with a few injuries where I’ve started seasons and then missed the majority of the season and then came back in time for finals,” Flynn said.
“That happened in the first year that Craig was coaching us and I did have another instance where I had a back injury which kept me out for a few months. So along the way there have been a few hiccups but other than that even with those, all the girls and the coaches still involve you and you still feel part of the team and the journey every year.”
It’s been quite the rollercoaster journey in terms of team performances that Flynn has been part of throughout her 200-game career as well.
They broke through for a Grand Final appearance in 2014 before falling heartbreakingly short in the decider to the Rockingham Flames and then all of a sudden in 2015, the Lightning had a horror year winning just the one game.
That led to Craig Mansfield’s arrival as coach and there was a steady build to the championship triumph with a quarter-final appearance in 2016, semi-final appearance in 2017 and then losing just one game in all of 2018 on the way to the title.
That will always remain the highlight of Flynn’s career, unless of course they are able to win another.
“That championship meant a lot obviously. At Lakeside, we’re always working hard and we put the effort in and I was able to play in the Grand Final that we lost as well,” she said.
“Then to come back and play in a Grand Final, and win one, that was just a huge experience. It’s something that some players never get to experience so it was just so good. It was a team effort and it was such a great bunch of girls to be able to do it with.”
Going back-to-back is something that Flynn feels is certainly possible in 2019 despite the departures of Ali Schwagmeyer, Sydney Fipps and Sam Roscoe, and arrivals of GeAnna Lualu-Summers, Ellyce Ironmonger and Hannah Stewart.
“Obviously they were three huge changes out of our team from last year, but Craig is smart with what he’s doing and changing how we’re playing, and changing our offences and everything to suit the players we’ve brought in,” Flynn said.
“Even Hannah’s first game after just two training sessions, she’s already showing that she is going to fit in quite nicely with us. It will be lovely when Courtney gets back as well.”
Going through the highs of being part of dominant teams that reach a Grand Final and then a tough year like 2015 of winning just one game mean that Flynn can take a well balanced view of the highs and lows of any basketball career.
While she will always enjoy winning, going through those tough times is something she feels can have some benefits even in the long run. And knowing how it feels, also means she has some sympathy for teams they come up against now that lose on a regular basis.
“Even the year before when Craig didn’t coach, I got to experience being in a team that had just one win for the season and since then literally every season has progressed really nicely,” she said.
“Then last season, everything just clicked and provided the icing on the cake. Hopefully this year we can now go back-to-back. A lot of teams can’t do that so it would be very nice.
“Because you know what it’s like to lose a lot of games, your heart kind of goes out to the teams that do struggle for a while as well because you know how hard it is to keep rocking up to games and training.
“You are still trying your hardest but aren’t getting that reward at the end of it so you know how that feels and you feel for those teams. But then that also brings you closer together as a group but by going through those times, it makes it so much better when you are consistently winning because you know what you’ve gone through.”
Flynn has spent the majority of her career playing alongside Courtney Mansfield and now has thrived the past three and-a-half seasons with Craig Mansfield as coach.
Initially she does admit to having reservations about having a coach and captain in a relationship, but once she saw how professional they were those quickly were washed away and she couldn’t be happier for them to now be married.
“There hasn’t been any real change with them since they’ve come back, but I don’t know if that’s because Courtney is on the sidelines either,” she said.
“Coming into it with Courtney and Craig in a relationship, you do have some questions at the beginning but seeing them in this environment they are very professional and keep their personal life separate from their basketball. It works good and we’re all really happy for them.”
While it will always be a difficult juggling act to find the required time for basketball at SBL level and working full-time, Flynn sees no reason why she can’t keep doing it for some time yet especially while her body is holding up well and Lakeside is such a significant part of her life.
“Lakeside is such a big part of my life. They have taught me things in life that I can bring into my personal life as well, and my personal experiences and my work life,” Flynn said.
“They provide that sense of community and everyone just gets around each other, you know everyone and Lakeside just feels like such a safe place. You have the kids running around and it’s just such an enjoyable place to be around, and to play your basketball.
“I don’t feel like the body has changed at all over the years so I’m not feeling banged up. Hopefully I don’t have any big injuries or anything, but I’ve kept pretty fit and healthy and injury-free for quite some time now. Things are going good and I see no reason why I can’t keep going for a while longer yet.”