Rockingham Flames is a State Basketball League (SBL) club based in Rockingham, Western Australia. The club fields a team in both the Men’s SBL (MSBL) and Women’s SBL (WSBL). The club is a division of Rockingham Basketball and Recreation Association (RBRA), the major administrative basketball organisation in the region. The Flames play their home games at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
Unsuccessful first two decades (1992–2011)
In 1992, a Rockingham Flames women’s team entered the State Basketball League for the first time. As a result, Rockingham became the first club to introduce a women’s program before a men’s program. The Flames finished their inaugural season in the WSBL in eighth position with a 9–11 record. The 1993 season saw the Flames improve to fourth position with a 13–7 record.
In 1994, a Rockingham Flames men’s team was introduced for the first time, entering the MSBL alongside the women in the WSBL. The Flames men finished their inaugural season in 13th position with a 9–17 record, while the women capped off their third season in the WSBL with an 11–9 record and a sixth-place finish.
Over the first 20 years of the Rockingham Flames, neither the men or women made it through to a grand final. Both teams were also unsuccessful in claiming a minor premiership during that time, with the men finishing as high as second in 2008 with a 21–5 record, while the women had their best season in 2010 with a 16–6 record and a second-place finish.
First Grand Final (2012)
After finishing in last place on the WSBL ladder in 2011 with a 2–20 record, the Flames went into the 2012 season with much of the same group with one key addition – American import centre Emma Cannon. Cannon quickly proved herself to be one of the best American imports to play in the WSBL in a number of years, and complemented the likes of league veteran and 2010 league MVP Kaye Tucker. Cannon and Tucker helped lead the Flames to a fourth-place finish with a 15–7 record, and guided the team through the finals to reach the WSBL Grand Final for the first time in club history. In the 2012 championship decider on 31 August at the WA Basketball Centre, Cannon (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Tucker (11 points, 11 rebounds) were unable to fire for the Flames, as the South West Slammers took out the title with an 85–48 win.
Sami Whitcomb / Cooper Land era (2013–2016)
In 2013, both the Flames men and women picked up imports that would become staples for the club over the ensuing four years. American guard Sami Whitcomb was travelling through Europe when she took an SOS call from the Flames who had had their previously signed import pull out. Scrambling to find an import, Flames coach Ryan Petrik was advised to sign Whitcomb by the girl who dropped out. The men on the other hand were also gifted an American who had come out of Europe, with forward Cooper Land joining the Flames after his brother Taylor played for the Mandurah Magic in 2012. While the men struggled in 2013, finishing in 11th place with a 9–17 record, the women returned to the finals after finishing second with a 16–6 record. Whitcomb became an immediate sensation with the Flames in 2013, earning WSBL MVP honours and leading the Flames to the Semi Finals, where they were defeated 2–1 by the eventual champion Wanneroo Wolves.
In 2014, the men accompanied the women in the finals, with both teams earning post-season berths. The men had their second-best regular-season campaign in their history in 2014, finishing in second place with a 17–9 record behind the Land brothers—Taylor joined Cooper at the Flames in 2014 after a two-year stint with Mandurah. The women had a blistering season in 2014, as they collected the club’s first ever minor premiership with a top-of-the-table 20–2 record. While the men stumbled in the Quarter Finals—losing 2–1 to the seventh-seeded East Perth Eagles—the women went undefeated in the first two rounds of the finals to reach the WSBL Grand Final for just the second time. In the 2014 championship decider on 29 August at the WA Basketball Centre, the Flames’ one-two punch of Sami Whitcomb and Darcee Garbin saw them beat the Lakeside Lightning 80–75 to claim their first WSBL title. Whitcomb and Garbin were the two stars of the night for the Flames with Grand Final MVP Whitcomb hitting 20 first-half points on her way to 32 for the night to go with six rebounds and five steals on the back of shooting 11-of-21 from the field, and 6-of-11 from three-point territory. Garbin complemented Whitcomb well with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while captain Kaye Tucker retired with an SBL Championship in what was her 350th and last appearance in the league. At the end-of-season awards night, Whitcomb was named MVP of the WSBL for the second consecutive year, while Cooper Land was named MVP of the MSBL.
In 2015, both teams returned to the finals and saw success, with Sami Whitcomb and Cooper Land once again leading the way. After finishing fifth with a 15–11 record, the men advanced through to the Semi Finals after defeating the fourth-seeded Cockburn Cougars 2–1 in the Quarter Finals. However, they met their match in the semis, losing in a clean sweep to the eventual champion Joondalup Wolves. The women on the other hand finished as minor premiers for the second straight year, once again with a 20–2 record. They easily made their way through to a second straight Grand Final after going undefeated in the first two rounds of the finals. The Flames met the Willetton Tigers in the 2015 WSBL championship decider, a team who finished second in the regular season with an identical 20–2 record—Rockingham only claimed the minor premiership courtesy of a one-point edge in their two head-to-head battles. Behind a 41-point effort from Whitcomb, the Flames claimed back-to-back titles with a 68–63 win over the Tigers. Whitcomb subsequently earned her second consecutive Grand Final MVP. At the end-of-season awards night, Whitcomb was named MVP of the WSBL for the third consecutive year.
In 2016, both Sami Whitcomb and Cooper Land returned to the Flames for a fourth season. Whitcomb came into the 2016 WSBL season off the back of her first WNBL season with the Perth Lynx, a season in which she finished third in MVP voting and led the Lynx to the 2015/16 WNBL Grand Final. Behind a strong contingent of Whitcomb, Darcee Garbin, Ifunanya Ibekwe, Jacinta Bourne, Tarsha Fletcher, Ashlee Sidebottom, Talisia Bourne, Lizel Buckley, Amanda Pether and Ella Kennedy, the Flames entered the 2016 finals following another strong season, having finished in second position with an 18–4 record. However, their quest for a three-peat was denied after losing 2–1 to the eventual champion Willetton Tigers in the Semi Finals. Whitcomb went on to miss out on a fourth consecutive MVP, losing out to Candace Williams of the Cockburn Cougars.
The 2016 MSBL season saw the Flames men finish with a 17–9 record, good for a fifth-place finish for a second consecutive year. They went on to lose in a clean sweep to the Geraldton Buccaneers in the Quarter Finals despite Cooper Land scoring 72 points over the two games. At the end-of-season awards night, Land was named MVP of the MSBL for the second time in three years.
Post Whitcomb/Land era (2017–present)
Following the 2016 season, the Land brothers both parted ways with the Flames. Coming into the 2017 season, the Flames also had to deal with the tough task of finding replacements for Sami Whitcomb and club stalwart Darcee Garbin.