Jackson return complete as Flyers clinch WNBL title

Chris Pike |

Southside have won their fifth WNBL title, beating Perth 115-81 in game three in Melbourne.
Southside have won their fifth WNBL title, beating Perth 115-81 in game three in Melbourne.

Lauren Jackson’s remarkable return is complete, with the all-time great celebrating a sixth WNBL championship after her Southside Flyers’ size, experience and quality proved too much for Perth in Sunday’s deciding game three in Melbourne.

Jackson had nothing left to prove when she retired in 2016, with her legacy secured as the country’s greatest basketballer after two WNBA championships, five WNBL titles, and seven MVP awards across the two leagues.

She started the comeback journey with the Albury-Wodonga Bandits in the NBL1 East before winning bronze with the Opals at their home World Cup in 2022.

Her WNBL return ended last season with a ruptured achilles tendon, and nobody would have blamed her at 42 years of age if it was one too many hurdles to overcome.

She wouldn’t be denied, though, and now is a six-time WNBL champion, having been a key part of the Flyers winning game two in Perth on Thursday and blowing the Lynx away in the last leg on Sunday, 115-81.

It’s a sixth WNBL championship for Jackson, a fifth overall for the Flyers and the second with them since their name change from the Dandenong Rangers.

Mercedes Russell.
Mercedes Russell (L) is congratulated by Lauren Jackson after being named the Finals MVP. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

Jackson couldn’t be prouder of her teammates, but it meant even more to do it as a mother.

“It’s crazy and I’m so proud of the girls, they were incredible and we’ve worked for it,” she said.

“It’s been a hard year so for us to get here and win it like this after what happened here in game one is pretty special.

“It’s so much better when you’ve got your kids and family with you that’s for sure, and I couldn’t do it without them. So it’s remarkable, and I’m just so proud of my two boys.”

The Flyers’ depth, experience, size and all-round quality enable them to hit back from losing game one to the Lynx to secure the championship.

Southside’s front court alongside Jackson of Mercedes Russell and Carley Ernst were also huge contributors towards coach Cheryl Chambers’ third title.

Lauren Jackson reaches for the ball by the basket.
Lauren Jackson (R) helped the Southside Flyers clinch the WNBL grand final series against Perth. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

Russell hit the game winner in Perth on the buzzer and won the Rachael Sport Award as MVP with another 13 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday. Ernst blew the game open with three triples in two minutes in the third quarter.

Southside captain Bec Cole was outstanding all series while Leilani Mitchell is another mother proving her quality, scoring 14 points with three triples in game three to win her fourth WNBL championship.

Import Jaz Dickey continue her strong form from across the series in scoring 19 points, while Maddy Rocci stood up as well, with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

It was more heartbreak for the Lynx, who for the second time in three years have won the first game of a grand final series, lost a heartbreaker at home and been blown away in the decider in Melbourne.

Amy Atwell finished with 22 points and Aari McDonald 21, but Perth’s championship drought, dating back to 1992, continues.

AAP